The Heaven at Home team regularly sees families and their canine companions struggle through the Golden Years. There are many incremental improvements you can make over time to make sure your companion enjoys his or her golden years to their fullest:
- Increase Accessibility – throughout your home through aids like dog ramps, stairs, and padded flooring.
- Regular Exercise – stimulates appetite, improves mood, reduces anxiety and helps maintain strength and mobility.
- Increase comfort – with orthopedic bedding and protection from extreme cold or extreme heat.
- Supportive therapy – such as cold laser, acupuncture, chiropractic and hydrotherapy can help keep your senior pet moving.
- Supplement nutrition – to stave off arthritis and canine cognitive dysfunction with Fish oil, or feed oily fish such as sardines, mackerel or cooked salmon. Talk to your vet about glucosamine and chondroitin supplements formulated specifically for canines to improve joints.
- Weight Management – Address obesity early, or better yet, never let it develop, as it will exacerbate other conditions that crop up with aging (such as arthritis or diabetes). You may need to reduce caloric intake but also supplement to compensate – discuss this with your veterinarian. In general, more protein and fewer carbohydrates have been shown to improve canine health. Consider adding moisture to dry foods, switching to wet foods, and warming foods to increase palatability.
- Specialized grooming – Pay special attention to nails for walking comfort. Aim for shorter, possibly more frequent grooming sessions to reduce discomfort and stress. Check for new lumps and bumps for early diagnosis of problems.
- Behavioral enrichment – Research shows that dogs who are engaged and using their cognitive abilities can stave off cognitive dysfunction. Puzzles, games, scent work and novel experiences are great.
- Canine Companionship – Don’t wait until later-stages of decline to introduce a new companion if you’re inclined to grow your fur family. Puppies can give old dogs a new lease on life.
- Hospice & End-of-Life planning – Make sure you have a plan for how you want to handle palliative care and your pet’s end of life to give your pet the peaceful, pain-free passing they deserve.
If you need help planning for your pet’s sunset years, talk to the Heaven at Home team. Another great resource is Whole Dog Journal’s digital book: “Taking Care of Your Senior Dog,” available at www.WholeDogJournal.com.