Lifestyle+

STANDING AND MOVING SAFELY

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Arthritis and decreasing muscle mass make your senior less stable on her paws.  Cover floors with non-slip mats and stairs with a non-slip runner to prevent slipping, sliding, and falling. Some dogs will tolerate wearing non-slip socks or nail attachments designed to prevent slipping.  Regular nail trimming to the proper length will also help.

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Trim nails regularly and/or use nail attachments to prevent slipping....

nonslip mat

Nonslip mats will prevent slips and falls…..use them wherever slipping hazards exist…..install non-slip runners on stairs and in hallways….

If your senior regularly walks a flight of stairs, use a harness or vest with a sturdy leash attached so that you can assist as needed.  You don’t want her to slip and tumble down the stairs, and a vest or harness will help you prevent that — a collar won’t do that safely or effectively.  At the Senior Dogs Project, we like to use the kind of vest that has velcro attachments, making it quick and easy to get on and off.

non-slip socks

Non-slip socks can help your dog get a grip on slippery surfaces....

COLLAR VS. HARNESS

Can the use of a collar hurt your dog's neck?

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A recent study shows that the use of a collar can, indeed, hurt you dog's neck.  More comments on the problems a collar can cause.....

The Senior Dogs Project recommends a harness rather than a collar for all senior dogs.

NO RETRACTABLE LEASHES!!
When it comes to walking a senior, you most definitely do  not want to use a retractable leash.  Here are some comments on the dangers…..

Dogs can get into trouble when eyesight and hearing start to go.  Cognitive decline is another condition that can lead to accidents.  A dog who can't see well might step into a pothole; one who is deaf, won't hear your calls to "come."

As soon as you notice diminished sight or hearing or mental confusion, it’s time to take action: if you’ve been using a collar and leash, switch to a harness or vest and non-retractable leash, and, unless you’re in a very controlled environment, hang onto that leash.

DRINKING AND DINING

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Fresh, clean water, free from contaminants, is critical to a dog’s good health. At the Senior Dogs Project we place water bowls right next to food bowls and also at several places around the house where the dogs spend time, making them easily accessible. Arthritis and muscle weakness can make bending over to food and water bowls problematic for your senior.

If you notice that your senior's hind legs shake a little as he tries to get to the proper position for drinking or eating, put nonslip mats both under and around the bowls. It also may help to make a slight adjustment in the height of the bowls. Use a cardboard box under the bowls that’s just a few inches high.

Dog food and water

 (There are also raised bowls commercially available, although, at a fixed height that might not be right for your dog, their use is controversial.)

Dog bowls come in many sizes, several different materials, and decorative designs.   Here are some guidelines for choosing bowls that are appropriate for your senior….

 

We wash food bowls in the dishwasher on the hottest setting and scrub water bowls with soap and hot water and refill with fresh water each morning.

GETTING PROPER REST

donut bed

You really do need to indulge your senior dog in the best resting and sleeping environment possible. Every aging body needs good quality rest. There are many choices on the market.

Donut beds with an orthopedic mattress are a favorite of Senior Dogs Project residents, although some of our dogs select different types of beds for different purposes — a donut bed for resting during the day, and a flat, bolstered mattress at night. We also like to provide a bath towel that can be scratched at and fluffed up into the proper arrangement before lying down. Every part of the bed should be completely washable and dryer-safe. If incontinence is an issue, any part of the bed that’s not washable should be covered in a water-proof sleeve.

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What is an orthopedic dog bed?
According to one source:  An orthopedic dog bed is one that provides extra support to a dog’s bones and joints, especially the hips and elbows. … Some orthopedic dog beds are made with memory foam, but a bed can be orthopedic as long as the fill is thick, durable, and provides enough support.

 

A high-quality orthopedic bed will ensure cushioning for joints and a restful night’s sleep…..Learn how to evaluate them…

PROTECTION FROM THE ELEMENTS

14-year-old Tux loves his little yellow raincoat!
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Your older dog will feel the effects of weather. There are so many choices — both practical and fashionable — for protection from rain and cold. And don’t forget boots, if there’s snow or ice on the ground. Salt that is used to thaw ice can be problematic, especially if your dog licks his paws.

You may be a fashionista and want to spoil your dog (and yourself) with the latest in designer dog clothes.  Feel free to indulge!  However, functional and protective clothing should also be on your shopping list.  Here’s a description of some of those items, along with a really funny video of dogs trying on their new boots…….

ADDRESSING WEAR AND TEAR

elbows

It was clear from the wear and tear on Stynson’s elbows that his former home had not provided cushioned places for him to lie on. We eased his discomfort with plush, non-slip mats and orthopedic beds throughout the house.  "Elbow protectors" and "callus cuffs" are also readily available through pet supply sources.  And, by the way, the folks who dumped Stynson at the public shelter at the age of 12 (because they were going on a family vacation) should know that they gave up THE BEST DOG EVER.

GROOMING AND MASSAGE

Dog grooming

An aging dog needs serious attention to grooming. To prevent slipping, nails need to be trimmed regularly so that they do not touch the floor when the dog is standing. Frequent brushing and, depending on your dog’s coat, regular visits to a professional groomer need to go on your dog’s schedule.

An important part of a grooming routine is running your fingers and hands over all the parts of your dog’s body to check for parasites, lumps, bumps, and swellings. You will need a brush and or a comb, as well.  There are many choices of grooming tools. Consult your veterinarian and a professional groomer to get some advice on the best type for your dog.

 

dog massage

Massaging your dog is good not only for your dog’s relaxation, but for your own, as well. And it’s great for bonding with your dog!  Read more about the benefits of canine massage…..

MENTAL STIMULATION

tricks

Teaching your senior new tricks is far and away THE BEST way to keep her engaged in life and in her relationship to you and your family.

The more mental stimulation you provide, the more opportunities there are for counteracting the effects of cognitive decline.

Is a dog ever too old to train?

The answer is NO! You can train a dog at any age.  You can find out more about the possibilities and joys of training an older dog at the Spirit Dog Training website!

Can you train an older dog?

ENGAGEMENT

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Car Rides!

Keep your senior engaged in life by taking him with you whenever possible, even on a short car ride.  One safe way to drive is with the dog in a harness attached to a seat belt.  This will keep him from distracting you while you’re driving, and will provide a safe place for him to ride.  For longer rides, we’ve noticed that our dogs like a donut bed to lie in.  The attachment of the harness to the seatbelt should be long enough to allow your dog to lie down comfortably.  If your senior has trouble getting up into your car, there are steps and ramps that will help.

Hiking!

If you’re a hiker, your dog is one of the luckiest dogs in the world.  Gear of all kinds exists to make it fun for all.  Special backpacks that distribute weight properly and are comfortable for you to wear will provide an alternative, should your dog become tired and need to be carried.

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Great information on hiking with your dog at the American Hiking Society site…

Walks!
If you’re not into hiking or your senior isn’t up to it, there’s nothing wrong with simply walking.  And there are lots of choices when your pup tires — slings that go over your shoulder or pet strollers.

We always like to have water available on hikes or walks, and have found a very useful combination container-and-dispenser that we always take along.

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Swimming!
Senior dogs can continue to swim, although not in very cold or rough water.  Every senior Golden we adopted loved swimming, and all were able to enjoy the water throughout their lives with us.  We took them to a bay, a lake or a calm river.

swimming

Travel!

No reason to leave your senior at home when you travel.  The Bring Fido site will help you find a dog-friendly place to stay.

And here are some tips about good practices when you stay at a hotel with your dog.

12-y-o Golden Retriever "Gypsy" on a trip to San Francisco

INCONTINENCE (NO BIG DEAL!)

As dogs get older, just like humans, they are likely to need more bathroom breaks during the day and possibly during the night. Frequent “pee walks” during the day are one part of the solution. And, at night, products like doggie diapers, bellybands, and puppy pads can help manage the size of needed clean-ups. You will also want to keep clean-up and sanitizing supplies handy.

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People sometimes say that when a dog is incontinent, he or she is “embarrassed” and “feels bad” about it. “Embarrassment” and “feeling bad” are emotions we might attribute to our dogs, but we really don’t know if that’s what they feel. Incontinence can be effectively managed, and a dog can enjoy a happy, high-quality life despite it.

 

We like to quote this reminiscence from a contributor to the Senior Dogs Project: “It just seemed to slip out in her sleep — not every night, but most. We kept a clean pad or rug under her and cleaned it up in the morning. I never minded. We always had the rest of the day to spend happily together. She was such a good, sweet dog.”

More advice on dealing with incontinence....