Some tips and tricks to keep your Golden Oldies shining into their twilight years . . .
Next to food and supplements (see Tuesday's post), the next biggest challenge -- and reward -- when caring for your senior pup is keeping them active and helping them get around easier.
The first thing to consider is your own environment. Gone are the days you need to “puppy proof.” Now you need to “senior proof” your home.
Rugs & Flooring: Do you have mainly all carpet or do you have a lot of slippery wood and ceramic tile floors? Rugs can be great to help your senior get around, but be sure to get rugs that have rubber backing to help them grip the floor. You can also try boots on your dog’s feet, but keep in mind that boots can also have an adverse effect and can trip the dog up if they drag their back feet on the floor. Some of the more popular and inexpensive examples include Pawz waterproof disposable dog boots, Thera-Paws, and even baby socks. A relatively new product is called Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips, nonslip toenail grips that fit onto each nail. Keep in mind there’s a learning curve for your dog for each one of these products. Also be sure to add some extra rugs around beds that are on slick floors. If your senior falls off the bed onto the slippery floor, he may not be able to get up on his own.
Harness: A harness, such as the Ruffwear Webmaster harness, includes a handle on the top that is handy in assisting wobbly dogs. A step up from the Webmaster harness is the Help’EmUp harness, which costs about twice that of the Webmaster. It includes not one but two handles on top, one above the back and one over the hips. This harness also has various walking accessories including a shoulder strap and a strap that that allows you to hold the front and back with one handle.
Sling: A good item to help get your hound in and out of the car and around the house in case of an injury is a fleece mobility sling that can be found on Amazon, among many other online retailers.
Cart: If your hound likes to get out on the town but his legs just won’t allow that, consider pulling him around in a cart. (See above!) Some nifty ideas include a child’s large wagon or garden cart, available at home improvement stores. Some more expensive alternatives made for especially dogs are available, too. There may be a learning curve for the dog, so practice around the house to get them used to it will come in handy before going out on a long excursion.
Limiting Access: As your dog ages, eyesight and coordination also start to fail. You may want to consider limiting the area they have access to when you’re not home. A senior dog can easily fall down stairs or off a sofa, and you won’t know until you return home. If they insist on getting on the furniture while you’re gone, consider adding a rug underneath for them to jump down on.
Another thing to consider for a senior pup are good beds – orthopedic beds are great. The secret, though, is to be sure the bed isn’t too soft. Beds that are too soft are harder to get out of without help. Beds with bolster sides are great for seniors with mobility problems. They can use the sides to lie against and to help themselves get up.
Also, as your dog ages, he may not be able to hold himself like he once was able to. Please do not get mad if your senior wets in the house. If it starts happening regularly, have the vet make sure it’s not due to a urinary tract infection. There are also a variety of drug options – some prescription and some over-the-counter – particularly for older female dogs who leak. If you’re gone all day for work, you may want to consider either coming home at lunchtime to let your dog relieve himself or hiring a dog walker. If neither of those options are possible, consider getting large pee pads to put down in dog’s area. These can be either the disposable type or jumbo-sized mattress-type pads with rubber lining. The disposable type can be slippery if placed on a slick floor so you’ll need to take the floor you’re placing them on into consideration.
What is the bottom line when keeping your older dog comfortable, healthy, and happy? Pay attention. Consider what you can do to help them feel safe and secure. Put yourself in their paws and think about how scared you’d be if you started losing sight, hearing, and the ability to smell and taste good foods. With just a little modification to your home, your dog’s daily routine, and the addition of supplements, you can help your senior live longer and thrive.
For me, there’s no greater reward than seeing a 13-year-old pup climb stairs for the first time in many years with our help. Or better yet, see a 14-year-old enjoy her meal, even while battling her kidney disease. It’s rewarding to watch your pup thrive even in the twilight of her life.
If you’ve ever considered adopting a senior, please do so. There’s nothing better than their love, and I can assure you will be richly rewarded.
First Person is an occasional series featuring SHUG adopters and supporters. The author is Tracey McLaurin.