Living With My Senior Dog

Denver, my Lab, is a senior dog. He’s just a few months shy of his 13th birthday but he still looks young and still acts young at heart. Denver is the first dog I’ve had that has lived well into his senior years, and I’m thankful for every moment we have together. Truth be told he has some sort of tumor in his stomach and I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be around, but we’re making the most of each day we have together. As I thought about my life with a senior dog, I thought I’d share some of the things that I think have made Denver’s senior years more enjoyable. So here, in no particular order, are some great ideas for senior dogs.

  • IMG_1330Orthopedic TUFF Bed – I wanted to find a bed that would be comfortable for Denver’s sore joints and also one that would clean easily. I found it in the TUFF bed.  I love this bed…and so does Denver.
  • Raised dog bowl – As Denver got older he seemed to prefer eating from an elevated food bowl. This was recommended to me by a vet who felt it would be easier on Denver’s arthritic elbows. Turns out Denver really did seem to prefer it.
  • Stairs for the bed – Denver is spoiled..naturally. And he sleeps on the bed with me (I wrote about that here). But as he got older he could no longer jump onto the bed, so I purchased some sturdy and inexpensive stairs for him. I actually tried a few different options and the one that worked best for a dog Denver’s size (70 pounds) was the Pet Gear Easy Step III. Using these stairs, Denver’s routine pattern of sleeping in the bed didn’t have to change. He can get up and down the bed on his own even during the day when we aren’t home with him. This was a huge peace of mind for me because I was always worried he would get hurt trying to jump on or off the bed.
  • Denver in strollerDoggyRide Dog Stroller – I was very familiar with dog strollers for small dogs, but I had no idea there was a stroller made for larger dogs too. Denver has pretty severe arthritis. Several years ago we noticed he couldn’t take very long walks without limping. Then, one day on an RV trip, my husband suggested we take our wagon and see if Denver would ride in it so that we could walk him to the beach. It worked like a charm. Denver sat happily in the wagon as we strolled around the RV camp and took him to the beach. Once there he could get out and wander on the sand and then get back in the wagon for the return trip home. That started me on the path of researching dog strollers for large dogs and I found the DoggyRide Dog Stroller. This has literally changed Denver’s life in his senior years since he can still go for walks now. He loves his stroller and will hop in as soon as he starts getting tired. Senior dogs need mental stimulation and I honestly think Denver was depressed when he couldn’t go on walks as much anymore. The stroller changed that! It’s also a terrific conversation piece as people wonder what you have in the stroller and are always surprised when Denver sticks his head out to greet them.
  • GingerLead – I just found this great tool a few weeks ago at the BlogPaws conference. The Gingerlead is a dog support and rehabilitation harness. It is great if your dog has trouble getting up and down stairs whether from old age or even from a surgery. I found the Gingerlead to be a much better solution than a towel wrapped underneath my dog’s hindquarters. I use it anytime I feel Denver needs a little more support, usually 3-4 times a month. The GingerLead is really well made and easy to use. I plan to use it for potty walks outside if Denver needs it.
  • Fit pawsFitPAWS Balance Disk – a few years ago when Denver was spending more time indoors than out, I decided to get him a Fitpaws balance disk. With the balance disc he was able to do some core work and get some exercise without having to put too much stress on his joints. For just a few minutes a day we could work on the balance disc together. He loved learning new things so it was good for him mentally as well as physically.

Some other things I did that have helped Denver:

  • Acupuncture – I’m fortunate to have a terrific holistic vet, Dr. Victoria Farthing, at the Animal Wellness Center at Concord Farm. Denver really responds well to acupuncture. Initially I gave him treatments about 4 times a year starting when he was around 9. However and as he grew older, we have progressed to treatments every 6 weeks and now every 3 weeks. He always seems in less pain and has more flexibility following acupuncture.
  • Different food – I’m not sure if this is a senior dog issue or an issue because Denver has a stomach tumor, but he became more picky at mealtimes. The food that he had been eating for several years no longer seemed palatable to him. So I began offering a rotating variety of food and that seemed to help.
  • Various holistic remedies – following advice from my veterinarian, I have also used the following supplements with Denver for the past several years
    • Digestive enzymes and probiotic – to support his immune system
    • Hepagen-C which helps with liver function
    • Comfort Zone and Connective Tissue Formula from Veterinarian Botanicals

I guess I should also point out that I haven’t vaccinated Denver is ages! He gets titer testing every few years and up until 2 years ago he remained current on his rabies, although now I have let that lapse.

So, just some thoughts for those of you who have senior dogs! If you have other ideas on things which have helped your senior dogs, let me know! I might try them for Denver too!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

15 thoughts on “Living With My Senior Dog

  1. I sure wish I would have had this wonderful information a few months ago. My daughter lost her golden lab because of the painful arthritis in her hips, and a very bad seizure. All of the ideas on how to care for a senior dog is brilliant. I sure send best wishes for your beautiful dog Robin. God bless!

    • Thanks so much! I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s dog. I do wish all our dogs could live longer.

  2. What a great post, Robin! Thank you for sharing. I think I am going to try that balance disc. I had a balance ball for my last shepherd but somehow it got popped.

    I bought an amazing bed from https://bigbarker.com/ for my GSD who has orthopedic issues. Expensive, but this bed is well worth every penny. I bought it in December, and it is still in the exact same shape it was the day I bought it. No dents anywhere.

    • Hi Lorie, That bed looks great! I love to bolster at the one end too. My dogs always seem to like to put their head on a pillow so they would love that.

  3. Look into the stuff Orvis sells. They have bed spreads and throws which protect your bed against all kinds of dog accidents (including old age incontinence). We have used their beds for years now. They have always been a great company to work with. They listen to their customers. After we purchased a dog gate from them, had our toy walk through it, and returned it, the next catalog we received had the space between the bars spindles listed right in the catalog. They also have a memory foam dog bed for old dogs with two removeable waterproof pads so they can always have a clean bed.

  4. So many great ideas! Your post also made me think of all the wonderful dogs that have come into our lives. We just love our senior dogs!

    Here’s one thought that came to mind: Our English Setter, Nyla, started showing signs of canine dementia (cognitive dysfunction) and it was really sad and confusing. We began giving her Neutricks and I’m convinced it worked really well for sharpening her overall mental ability. One of the things I remember most was that she often had a really hard time settling down and getting good sleep. This supplement seemed to help with that. It just made such an incredible difference all around and I always recommended it to anyone I know that has an aging dog or cat.

    Give Denver a big hug from us!!

    • Thanks, Dave! Love the Neutricks idea. It’s always good to know about supplements that can make our pets more comfortable! Thanks.

  5. Hi Robin,

    Great article. I attended your Dog Business seminar in Houston a few years ago. My interest in doing work with dogs came from our experience with Robert who had AIHA and severe arthritis, then adenocarcinoma, but he lived 15 years. I have completed the ABC Certified Dog Training Program and continue to learn from the Dog Gurus and many other sources. Your work is greatly appreciated. Denver is lucky to have your wonderful care.
    Cherie

    • Thanks for your kind words, Cherie. Nice to see you on my blog. Hope all is going well! What a great story about a 15 year old dog with those kinds of issues. Great to hear he had a long life.

  6. Great tips! We got the Ginger Lead a few months ago and have been training with it. It was very helpful after a paw surgery my pup had a few months ago.
    I have an 11 year old Great Dane and he has lost lots of strength in his hind the last few months and does slip on smooth floors. We have purchased many rugs and runners and that helps a lot in the house.
    He was also diagnosed with SARDS (sudden blindness) in Feburary. We began to wear a bell. We laid rugs under his water and food dishes no help him use his paws to map the area. And the use of essential oils to mark certain areas of the house to help him navigate. We scented the back door, his beds and his rugs at his water dishes.

    • **We laid rugs under his water and food dishes to help him use his paws to map the area.

      P.S. We got him two Big Barker beds too 🙂

    • Hi Kricket. It sounds like your pup is in great hands! Good ideas on the bell and the scent marking. I recently saw a product called “Muffins Halo” for blind dogs too. Maybe that would be another idea for you. Thanks for your advice to others who have older dogs and/or blind dogs!

  7. These are all great tips and are very helpful. My almost 12 yo Pyrenees/Brittany mix is starting to slow down a little and I am always looking for anything to keep him happy and comfortable as he ages. I love the stroller! My Will really enjoys his walks and I think he would be depressed if/when he is no longer able to go as long as he is used to. He’s a skittish/nervous dog do I’m not sure if he would take to it as easily as Denver but worth a try.
    Question on the rabies vaccine, is that not required in order to license your dog where you live? I try to vaccinate as little as possible but as far as I know it’s the law here in MA.
    Best of luck to Denver with his stomach tumor, he looks like a sweet boy.
    Nancy

    • Hi Nancy, The rabies required in my area. They now have a titer test for Rabies though which I have just done with my dog.

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