The Ultimate Guide to Senior Dog Care, Part 1

The Ultimate Guide to Senior Dog Care

Did You Know That Senior Dogs Need Additional Care As They Age?

Prevention of aging starts early in life, so always try to make healthy choices for your dog. However, there is so much you can do once your dog is older to make sure they are comfortable and aging gracefully with a good quality of life!

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Looking for pain- is your dog silently suffering?

Be sure to take time to step back once in a while and observe your dog from a “big picture” perspective. Have their habits changed? Are they still able to do things they used to do like getting in and out of the car, on and off furniture, or have they slowed down?

Does their posture look different? Is their back hunched? Do they walk crooked? Do their legs shake when they stand? Do they sit off to one side? These are all signs that your dog could be in pain.

Many people don’t realize that dogs will often try to hide their pain, especially if it is chronic.

Did you know that many dogs will never cry out or vocalize from chronic pain?! They are more likely to yelp as a result of acute pain, like a pinched nerve in their back or neck, or even a wound or bee sting. If they are suffering from chronic pain from arthritis or back pain, it is often unnoticed by owners who see them every day and don’t notice the subtle changes in their behavior and habits over time.

Dogs will adapt in exceptional ways to tolerate living with chronic pain and they find ways to make due, but if you think you notice changes in your dog’s posture, speed, energy level, alignment, and strength, it might be time to make some changes to your dog’s care routine or take a trip to the vet for a check up!

Nail Care

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of regular nail trims for senior dogs. (Sometimes that means every 2 weeks!) Long nails will change the balance and weight distribution within the dog’s foot, which affects the way the dog stands, walks, and can lead to tendon injuries or degenerative joint disease! As dogs age and generally walk less, their nails don’t get worn down on pavement or other surfaces, so they get long much faster.

These nails are obviously too long, but unfortunately I see dogs living with nails like this all the time!
These are better, but still too long! They say a dog’s nails should only be touching the ground if they are walking up a hill, or digging.

Also, many people walk their dogs less as they age, so they get less normal wear of the nails, which could lead to chronically overgrown toenails. This is one more reason to keep walking your senior dog regularly!

Appropriate Flooring

(i.e. Please don’t let your dog live their twilight years worrying about slipping and falling all day long!)

If you have tile or hardwood floors, please consider putting down yoga mats or carpet runners for your senior dog to give them better traction. Walking on slippery floors is like walking on ice for an older pet, and this type of flooring makes it really difficult for them to get up and down, which dogs will do all day long. Help your dog out and be sure you have provided flooring that is easy for them to navigate, especially when they are home alone.

Here is Dr. Barrett’s favorite yoga mat for pets! They really make such a huge difference! This particular mat is inexpensive, grippy and the appropriate thickness. Not all mats are created equal, but you usually just need the most basic mat to suit your dog’s needs.

Nourishing nutrition

A healthy, well-balanced diet is the cornerstone of health for a dog of any age. It becomes even more important as dogs get older! Work with your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s diet as they age and make necessary changes. If you feed kibble, you may switch from an adult food to a senior formula. If you feed raw, you should be aware that raw food is often too “cold” energetically for older pets, and in Chinese medicine, is thought to worsen arthritis and other types of deficiencies. What may be more beneficial is a cooked diet that has already been “pre-digested” for the older pet.

Fresh food as opposed to processed will also have additional antioxidants and nutrients that will keep your dog feeling their best. If you want to schedule a nutritional consult for your dog, contact Dr. Barrett here!

Raised bowls

Raising your senior dog’s food and water bowls can make meal times more comfortable. Raised bowls can reduce strain on their front legs, neck and back that didn’t used to bother them when they were younger. You want the bowls to be around their elbow height like you see in the photo.

Here is a great raised bowl, recommended by Dr. Barrett!

It goes without saying that older animals benefit greatly from annual examinations and health screening tests. At these appointments you will have access to your vet to get advice regarding diet, dental health, quality of life, and much more!

Physical touch

A shared touch between a person and their dog can be a healing experience for both parties. Studies have shown that petting an animal will typically lower a human’s blood pressure, helping them to relax. And whether it’s giving your dog a warm bubble bath, a belly rub or a back massage, or just meditatively petting their amazing fur, the human-animal bond is created by the action of touch. Senior dogs can become more anxious and insecure as they age. Many lose their senses of hearing and vision. These dogs especially rely on their sense of touch to recognize their people and be able to relax and feel not alone. So be your dog’s best friend and have a daily physical touch moment of some kind (baths, petting, massaging, examining, grooming). And your dog will make you feel relaxed in return!

I can tell you from much experience that it feels so good to be there for your dog in the later stages of life when they really need you! I hope that this guide can make it easier for you to do that for your amazing dog! Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon!

Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you optimize your dog’s care.

Contact me here!

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I'M DR. MEGHAN BARRETT

I’m a veterinarian who has helped thousands of clients take better care of their animals.

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