Dogs do a much better job than us humans at rolling with the punches that life gives them, including the challenges that come with their golden years. It is this amazing attitude that gives us a way of helping them to stay young even longer. Far too often we as pet parents stop doing the things our dogs gain energy from as we try and accommodate this stage of their lives. Yes we do need to make changes, but we do not need to simply stop doing - we just need to do things differently.
Here are 5 ways to help your senior dog feel young:
- Regular Exercise - it is very common for a parent of a senior dog to reduce and often eliminate daily exercise from their routine due to mobility issues or other age related conditions. Unfortunately by doing this you can often make their physical ailments worse. Helping your dog stay active not only gives them a big lift mentally, but it can often slow the effects of aging. Even the most arthritic dogs need to keep moving and while you definitely don't want to overdo it, you can still find a balance. This is one of the reasons that I love dog strollers and dog wheelchairs so much because they help get your older dog outside and moving around, but in a way that caters to their needs. Another great way to help them continue to exercise is through hydrotherapy. Movement in water is much easier for their joints, but can still give them the activity they need.
- Create a Purpose - Just as humans, our dogs love to feel like they have a purpose - to feel needed, to feel like they are contributing to something beyond themselves, to have a routine that they can look forward to. This can take many forms such as being a therapy dog (officially or unofficially) bringing happiness to others who may not have their own dog; being involved in raising awareness like many dogs we see through social media who travel around and act as examples for others to learn from; teaching children about the joys a dog can bring or even going to work. In my case my dogs are with me every day at work since it is a full-time commitment for them being the super models (and possibly the brains) behind our Dog Quality products starring in videos and participating in photo shoots ☺
- Never Stop Playing - your dog may have slowed down, but the more you encourage play, the more they will retain their inner puppy. I can always find a way to encourage, even if only in short bursts, some form of play whether it's with a toy or even my hand. You may need to get creative, for example a dog dance party often does the trick ☺ and you may need to increase your own energy to get them going, but they will respond. The other important benefit to this is the positive energy you give off when you enter play mode. Our dogs are incredibly perceptive and feed off of our energy. If we look at them and see them as old, or feel sad for the changes they are going through, they pick up on this and if they feel that from you, how can it not impact how they feel about themselves? The younger you make them feel through your actions and attitude, the younger they themselves will feel.
- Massage - if you have ever had a massage yourself then you know how amazing it can make you feel. The same can happen for your dog. Last month I wrote about simple massage techniques you can do at home in my post titled: Massaging your Senior Dog to Better Health which can go a long way in improving your dog's mobility by loosening up their muscles, increasing circulation and helping them feel happy and relaxed. Spending time massaging your dog is also an incredible bonding experience that should be a part of everyone's routine.
- Keep them Lean - the most important way to help your senior dog feel young is to ensure they stay lean. There is a serious obesity issue with pets today with more than 52% of dogs in the United States considered to be overweight. And sadly a large portion of these dogs are in their senior years. With their reduced activity levels it is often easier for them to start gaining weight, but by finding ways to keep them active and adapting their diets accordingly, they can stay thin and healthy throughout their golden years. I have seen the transformation with my own dogs when they shed excess weight; their energy increases and they feel the effects of age far less. With so many joint problems plaguing senior dogs, to lighten the weight their joints have to carry makes a huge difference. Their mobility will improve and their pain will decrease. It also reduces the burden on their internal organs when their bodies don't have to work as hard and can help reduce the chance of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and respiratory impairment, among others. I cannot stress the importance of this enough - shedding those pounds can help give you not only more time with your dog, but more quality time at that.
The bonus with helping your senior dog feel young is that I bet you feel pretty good yourself in the process. Healthy, happy and active living can do wonders for your dog and for yourself!
Ann-Marie Fleming is the Founder & CEO of Dog Quality, a provider of products focused on improving the quality of life for older dogs.