Kim's Top Tips for Senior Dogs! Living Life to Its Fullest!
In my early 20’s, I had the privilege of rescuing a senior Saint Bernard. If memory serves me correctly Peyton was 8 to 10 years old when she joined my home and lived to be almost twelve and a half! A great age for a Saint Bernard. Rescuing a senior dog was one of the best experiences.
Now as I watch Chakira, our German Shepherd age, I think back to all the ways we help our senior dog’s live out their best days and how I can help my senior enjoy her next few years to her fullest. Chakira is 10 years young and we frequently joke about her intentional dementia. She has selective hearing and chooses when she wants to listen and when she wants to act like she didn’t hear us.
While we want to spoil them and make these days their best yet, remember, CONSISTENCY IS KEY!
1. Maintain a healthy weight
When Chakira was spayed, it had a negative affect on her metabolism. Keeping her weight down has required significant work. My ideal weight for my dogs is when I can feel their ribs easily but not see their ribs. A few tricks we have found to make this possible include
Minimizing treats with our senior dog. We offer dental chews to promote healthy teeth and gums and the occasional training rewards only.
Green Bean Diet Plan! We legitimately feed her a can of green beans topped with a small portion of kibble at each meal. I jokingly tell her it's her green bean casserole. This helps her feel full but get less calories.
We also feed Purina Pro Plan Weight Management kibble which is geared towards dogs who need to lose weight.
2. Keep their diet simple and consistent!
Some dogs have a rock hard stomach, can eat anything and never be affected. But that is not the norm. Most dogs will have digestive upset if they receive too many treats, table scraps or if you change their kibble cold turkey. It’s important to provide the same exact kibble at each meal for your dog. Even switching the protein in your dog’s kibble but using the same brand and line of food can cause distress for many dogs.
3. Add activities to keep their mind and body youthful.
Our dog may be a ten and a half but she LOVES training. If she misses training she will stand at the door and beg to go to classes. She also loves to go on car rides and on family adventures. We’re intentional about what activities we include her on so she enjoys the experience and isn't sore and stiff after. Beach days, lunches with outdoor seating, short easy hikes, regular walks, and shopping in Leavenworth are a few of her favorite activities!
4. But remember LESS is MORE!
We don’t want to weekend warrior it and risk injury. This includes intense hikes, too long of walks and allowing our senior dogs to jump in and out of vehicles or jump off things that are too high. Go back to using ramps and being careful with high impact activities. Also, think enriching walks, nose work, snuffle mats, car rides in place of the intense outings.
5. Orthopedic Dog Beds!
There are a number of good options on the market. All of our dogs have Primo Pads in their crates. We also have a number of comfy orthopedic dog beds around the house for the dogs to choose from. We have been very happy with the Bedsure Orthopedic Memory Foam dog bed. We have the large and extra large in our home. They wash up well and have lasted for 2 years and are still in very good condition.
Chakira loves to pretend she is the princess and the pea. She (or our kids) hide a her senior kong in the middle and stack all the beds. It's her favorite!
6. Keep those toe nails dremeled!
When we keep our dog’s nails trimmed, they will have better traction and less prone to injury. I prefer the dremel over nail trimmers. When you dremel a dog's nails, the quick receeds faster and you're able to take the nail shorter without pain or bleeding. While I have a couple of the rechargable dremel's made for dogs, I always forget to charge mine. So I use my husband's dremel because it plugs into the wall!
We also have seen that when their nails grow too long, it causes the pastern joint to hyper extend and the bones of her foot to be bent out of position and her toe bone to push upward. This puts undo stress on her feet, legs and ultimately her entire structure. We also shave the bottom of our senior dogs’ feet if needed. Some dogs grow hair on the bottom of their paws. Depending on your dog and the breed of dog you have, you may consider trimming the hair so your dog can walk easily without slipping on smooth surfaces. My favorite tool for this is the Wahl Professional Animal Arco Trimmer
7. Open Conversations with your Veterinarian!
Our veterinarian recommends annual bloodwork for our dog so that we can identify if and when any changes may occur. Your vet may recommend a different schedule based on your dog’s needs. Having open conversations with your veterinarian about the potential need for blood work, the best joint supplements for your senior pup and if your dog needs anti-inflammatory medication or arthritis medications is vital. Be observant of subtle changes in your dogs behavior, moods and ease of movement. Be quick to talk to your veterinarian about any changes you observe.
8. Most importantly, spending quality time with you.
We recently went on a mini vacation and had the pleasure of taking Chakira. She was ecstatic to have our undivided attention. Car rides, movie nights, walks through Leavenworth, walks in the snow. She adored every moment of it.