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.
- Orthopedic 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.
- DoggyRide 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.
- FitPAWS 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!