A recent article by Pete Keesling about older pet care reminded me about a very important point when taking care of your senior dog. He describes the need for keeping your dog active to help keep both mind and body healthy. As dogs get older they typically become less active because of arthritis or other health issues that slow them down. However, this is something that with the help of your vet, you can help to alleviate in most cases.
The bottom line is that you need to do what you can to keep your dog walking, exploring, and playing to keep his or her mind active as much as his or her body. This point is something I had almost forgotten. I have a 12 year old Pug named Mackenzie who suffers from arthritis. I have just put him on Metacam to help him since he has been in pain due to one leg in particular, and as a result we have not been able to do much walking. My focus has been on alleviating his pain which of course is the most important thing, but at the same time I was ignoring the benefits that having him mobile can bring.
Even with his pain under control I realize that Mackenzie will not be able to go on long walks, but that is ok. He has his dog jogger, which is our favourite thing in the world because it allows him to walk for a bit and then ride for a long period of time. This accomplishes two key things. He gets his much needed exercise to help keep his body healthy and he gets to enjoy the fun of riding in his jogger, which keeps his mind stimulated as he sees new things, new people and gets out of the house.
Often we are so worried about our older dogs that we treat them like fine china. Senior dogs still need to get out, move around, play and experience life to the fullest. The health benefits of keeping them stimulated are numerous so find the right balance and start enjoying life with your older dog.