The way a dog moves changes as they get older. Senior dogs become less active, move a little slower, and have a hard time doing the same things they could when they were younger. Simple tasks like climbing the stairs, jumping into the car, or getting onto the couch may be difficult or impossible for an older pet.
If you’re asking yourself, how can I help my older dog live an active life? You’ve come to the right place. Getting older doesn’t mean your dog has to slow down or let mobility changes impact its day-to-day life. Plenty of options are available to help your dog stay active well into its senior years.
A Multi-Modal Approach to Canine Mobility
There is no one-time fix or approach to improving a pet’s mobility. To improve senior pet mobility, you need to take a more wholistic view on their treatment plan. The best approach will include pain management, daily joint supplements, mobility aids, exercise or physical therapy. All of the elements are necessary to make sure your senior pet gets the best care possible. Talk to your veterinarian and create a plan that will work best for your pet and their mobility needs.
Pain management is the most important step, a pet that is in pain when they walk will not see any noticeable difference in how they move until that pain is properly managed. NSAIDS and anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed for dogs with arthritis and joint pain. A mobility aid or dog wheelchair will not help a dog in pain, it’s intended to support the dog and help them to walk. Any dog showing signs of pain, need to be seen by their vet immediately.
A dog’s inability to walk or bear weight on its hind legs may be the most extreme example of mobility loss in a pet. But even an older pet with severe joint pain or a back injury can struggle to walk. Luckily, a dog mobility cart is easy to use and readily available. Don’t shy away from a wheelchair or support harness. Your dog does not have to be paralyzed to benefit.
Many dogs will rely on a dog wheelchair only on “bad days” or as they recover from an injury. The benefits of providing your dog with mobility support go far beyond helping a pet walk. An older pup who trips or loses balance suddenly may need support to stay upright and walk without falling over. A harness may only be required when your dog needs assistance on the stairs or to get outside quickly. Don’t shy away from using these types of mobility aids. An active dog is a happy dog. If giving your dog extra support makes their life (and yours) easier, take the leap and do it.
Joint health is critical to a dog’s overall health. It’s never too late (or too early!) for a dog to take a joint supplement. Introducing a joint supplement to help younger dogs grow and develop their joints. For older pets, a joint supplement helps stiff joints and supports a dog’s hips and joints to keep them comfortable and mobile. What makes a good joint supplement? A good quality dog joint supplement should help mobility, aid stiff joints, and support a dog’s joint structure.
Ingredients to look for in a dog joint supplement:
- Green Lipped Mussel – soothes stiff joints
- Glucosamine – one of the major building block of cartilage formation
- Vitamins C & E – help maintain joint mobility
- Manganese – supports collagen formation in cartilage
- Hyaluronic Acid – lubricates and cushions joints
Together these ingredients help to improve a dog’s mobility, ease discomfort, and promotes a dog’s joint health.
The benefits of regular, structured exercise are clear. Senior dogs lose muscle mass, flexibility, and loss of leg strength. Continued exercise can combat these symptoms, help a dog maintain and even rebuild their strength. Hydrotherapy and swim therapy are a great, low-impact exercise. The buoyancy of the water makes moving easier for an older dog, especially those dealing with joint issues. The water creates a natural resistance that allows the dog to work on their strength.
Adam Gibbons, Chairman of the National Association of Registered Hydrotherapists states, “Water can also be used as a means of supporting dogs in a non-weight-bearing or partially weight-bearing environment to allow movements that would not be possible on land, perhaps because of weakness or injury.”
There is no one step, cure all to helping a senior dog to improve it’s mobility. Many different factors and treatments will play a part in helping a dog walk well into their senior years. Work with your pet professional to determine the best treatment plan for your pup.