Considerations for senior dogs and planning for the future.
Prevention is key. At any age, it is important for all dogs to take their time to stretch and warm up before running or zoomies to avoid ligament tears and surgery. Dogs 8 years and older may start to change their behavior depending on their mental and physical health. If you are young and have never experienced arthritis, it may be difficult to understand or appreciate what your dog is going through. Think of a grumpy grandparent who is in pain and a little short on patience. It is critical to know how to read dog body language. Your dog does communicate and if we do not "listen", they may resort to a growl, air snap, or even a bite. It is better to be safe than sorry! Your dog's life depends on it.
All dogs, especially seniors, need peaceful uninterrupted sleep to prevent grumpy behavior. Make sure they have their own place/den/crate where they feel safe, quiet (peaceful), and are easy to clean for when leaking and potty issues occur. Senior dogs may experience dementia and become fully awake, howling, or pacing in circles during the night. You may consider sleeping close to them on the sofa to provide comfort. Of note, senior dogs' hearing and eyesight may deteriorate causing them to become easily startled, "Let sleeping dogs lie."
Senior dogs may become less tolerant with strangers, children, and young dogs. When a dog feels vulnerable, they may feel fearful (head down, head turns away, lip licks) and become reactive with the unknown. Senior dogs may also develop new fears and become clingy. Consider calming supplements such as Adaptil (canine appeasing pheromone) and CBD works for some. Each dog is a unique individual so please discuss options with your holistic vet or vet.
Stairs (provide carpet to prevent slipping)
Exercise their brain (if you don't use it, you lose it!)
Behavior changes (aggression, disorientation, noise fears)
Physical changes (muscle loss, bladder & potty issues, hip dysplasia)
Hearing and vision loss
Senior visits with your vet are so important
Cancer, growths, etc.
The impact of jumping out of vehicles onto concrete is harsh on your dog's joints. To prevent the early onset of arthritis, consider training your dog to use a ramp now. If at all possible, let your dog out onto the grass. Big dogs can begin joint supplements at a young age to help build a strong foundation.
Visit the Canine Arthritis Management founded in 2015 by vet Hannah Capon for more information.
Help 'Em Up
Stairs can become scary when a dog is older. Have a backup plan, which may include sleeping with them on the main floor. This is especially helpful when our Malamutes develop dementia. We highly recommend using the "Help 'Em Up" harness.
Help 'Em Up harness has a special design for male dogs. They also have padding and are lined to prevent friction between skin and harness. There are also other harnesses, please make sure they can hold the weight of your Malamute and it has padding.
Food & Weight Management
Supplements such as glucosamine chondroitin, Omega 3's, salmon oil are helpful, please talk to a holistic vet or your vet.
Senior dogs' diets may change and become sensitive or need additional supplements. Talk to a holistic vet or do some research. Dr. Conor Brady's book, "Feeding Dogs - Dry or Raw? The Science Behind the Debate" has wonderful information on how to supplement your dog's food.
Weight management is important. Consider the number of calories (meals, treats, chews) your dog eats. Make meals last longer instead of just delivering kibble in a bowl. Try a slow feeder, snuffle mat, stuff kibble in a Kong, etc.
Enrichment & Training
If you don't use it, you lose it! This is true for aging humans and dogs. Continue enrichment and even teach tricks to engage their brain. For example, crate games, and review training hacks by Dog Latin.
Dog Enrichment: Toys, Games, and DIY Ideas (preventivevet.com)