We’d like to believe our dogs will live forever. But just like us, our pups get older and require more care than they did as puppies. As your dog ages, it’s important for you to pay extra attention to them. It also means that there are adjustments that need to be considered as your dog enters their later years of life.
Determining whether your dog is “old” can vary, depending on the type of dog. The breed and size matters, much like humans with genetics. Bigger dogs typically have a shorter lifespan than smaller ones (Great Danes live between 6 to 8 years while dachshunds live between 12 and 16). While you may be noticing some more gray hairs on your dog’s muzzle or a little less pep in their step than they once had, old age for dogs doesn’t have to be less fulfilling for them.
Below are some tips on how to make your home more friendly and accessible for your senior dog.
1. Install ramps or pet stairs
A senior dog requires increased mobility support. As older dogs can be more prone to issues such as arthritis, a ramp or pet steps can be crucial in helping these situations.
You can use portable steps (such as these) or put more permanent steps in place to establish some consistency. One extra benefit of portable steps is that they can be used in many situations, such as helping your senior dog get into and out of the car.
2. Prepare for accidents
As dogs age, they may begin to lose control of their bladder. If you’ve had them since they were a puppy, you’re most likely familiar with puppy pads and in-home accidents. If your dog is starting to have more frequent issues, it’s a good idea to invest in items such as puppy pads (if your dog is unable to make it outside), or even pet diapers.
3. Pay attention to the temperature, both inside and out
It’s important to note the temperature both inside and outside to make it easier for your dog. Like people, older dogs can become increasingly sensitive to heat and cold. They may not be able to withstand hot summer days or cold snow like when they were younger. Consider putting on a pet sweater during colder months, or keeping them inside in an air conditioned room during hot humid days.
4. Keep your home predictable
Like humans, dogs begin to lose their hearing and/or eyesight as they get age. If your dog’s vision is declining, it’s important to keep the placement of furniture in your house the same. It can also be helpful to use baby-proofing tools to protect your dog from running into sharp corners.
If your home has multiple floors, consider keeping your older dog downstairs. While this can be a tough decision, it ultimately can reduce the stress on an older dog’s body, particularly those with joint or hip issues.
5. Make toys and food more accessible
Depending on the height of your dog, it can be a smart idea to find ways to increase the height of their dog bowls to reduce neck strain. This elevated dog feeder is an example of something that can work well. Same goes for toys; try prop up their toys for easy accessibility.
6. Add carpet blocks or runways to slippery floors
Older dogs with joint pain tend to have a difficult time standing up on slippery surfaces, including hardwood floors. One way to help is to purchase little carpet blocks or runways that allow your dog to get up with more ease.
While it can sometimes be a difficult stage to navigate, your dog is most likely more calm and obedient in their old age. You’ve been able to create memories with them and if you’re reading this article, you’ve likely given them a great life thus far. As we do with our elders, keep an eye on them. Take precautions such as increasing their vet visits, watching their weight, switching their diets to senior dog food or one that’s softer on the teeth. But more importantly, enjoy quality time with them. Make their senior years the best ones yet.