How you can help your senior pet
Updated: Aug 12
As our pets age, it's very common that their musculoskeletal system will start to break down. In aging bodies, the muscles start to react slower, the joints start to ache, and we see our pets having a hard time getting up and/or walking around.
As our pets move into their golden years, we want to do everything we can to keep our beloved four legged family members comfortable and living their best life. Quality of life should be a top priority for our geriatric pets and I am here to talk today about some simple at home tips you can use to increase your pet's mobility and livelihood.
The single most important tip I tell owners is to give your dog a pedicure. Left = correct trim, right = too long.
If you had a hard time feeling your feet, how hard would it be to walk around with socks on a tile or wood floor? Super challenging!
Most of the pets I see are in sore need of a trim of their pad hair. If you don't feel comfortable, get your groomer to carefully trim the hair between the pads at your pet's next appointment. When their feet touch the floor, you want as much pad as possible making contact with the ground. This will help significantly with their traction by "taking their socks off" and allowing them to walk in their "bare feet."
As you're working on your pet's feet, please also consider also trimming their nails. If your pet is walking around with extremely long toe nails, it's like walking around in high heeled shoes. Long nails will excessively strain ligaments, cause increased muscle soreness, and perpetuate bad ankle/wrist posture. Nail hygiene is the single most important, and easiest, at home thing you can do to help your senior pet get around better and help their joints ache less.
How do you know if their nails are too long? My rule of thumb is: if the pet's nail touches the floor before the pad does or if I can hear the nails clacking on the sidewalk / wood floors, the nails need to be trimmed.
Besides putting rugs everywhere in your house (which most of my patients do), you can also invest in toe grips. They make pad stickers as well (which pets often chew off), but I find toe grips last longer and provide better traction. These are a specialty product you can buy online and get shipped straight to your house.
I tell my patients to trim the toes to the appropriate length and then slip on these cute rubber donuts. You should trim them to fit the dogs nail as seen in the picture above. These little pieces of rubber on the nail increase the pet's grip and can help prevent a lot of slipping and sliding around the house.
It's no secret that small dogs most often hurt themselves jumping on and off furniture. I find a lot of back injuries have this exact problem to thank. The best "cure" for a dog with IVDD, arthritis, or a known disc problem is to encourage use of a pet ramp or pet stairs.
I am an advocate for ramps over stairs (as climbing stairs induces shoulder strain) and I prefer the ramp have a carpet overlay to increase the traction. We definitely don't need your pet using a slide to get out of bed!
I tell owners to use ramps ALWAYS when a pet is getting down off of furniture or in/out of the car. Small pets can also be lifted, but for your larger breed dogs, ramp use is imperative.
Try kneeling down to pick up a pencil when you're 80. It's not very easy! For senior pets, the same applies to ducking their head to eat food off the ground.
For your larger breed dogs, a raised food dish can help their shoulders and neck tremendously. To find the right height for them, measure your dog from where their foot meets the ground to just above the shoulder. The height of a lifted bowl should be within 5-6" of that measurement. In other words, your pet shouldn't have to "bow" or "slouch" to get food out of their bowl.
*EDIT 9/5/19: Do be mindful to ask your vet if this elevated food bowl is right for your pet. Unfortunately, some larger breed dogs eat too quickly and this can predispose them to choking/bloat (which is a life threatening disorder.)
If you've been reading my blog regularly, I hope I don't need to say this, but everyone also knows that the adjustment is the best thing to stimulate nerves and keep joints healthy as pets age!
However, I hope you also enjoyed learning about supplemental things you can do for your senior citizen at home. The best thing we can do by our four legged family member is give them all the tools they need to thrive as they age.
I look forward to partnering with you and your vet to keep your geriatric pet going.
I want to let you know you came to the right place for integrative and holistic health for your pet!
We are certified by the AVCA which is a top notch and rigorous certification program of 200+ hours class time followed by a written and practical board exam. We take 10 yearly hours of continuing education because we value knowing the most in order to provide the best.
When choosing adjustments for your pet, choose someone licensed, trained, and certified.