Dogs know how to age gracefully. They don’t go for plastic surgery. They don’t dye their hair or use wrinkle cream. They could give a hoot about a few gray hairs — or a fully grey muzzle. They may even sometimes act like they’re still a puppy (think: zoomies). Whether you’re adopting or you raised your dog from puppyhood, there are advantages to living with a canine senior citizen.
When older dogs are adopted from a shelter, they often know you’ve given them a second chance; you’ll be their hero. They are also calm and relaxing. They’re happy to go for a walk or just chill with you in front of the TV. They won’t chew up your favorite pair of pumps or rip apart your couch. They have been socialized and have good manners. They’re usually housetrained and know their basic commands — but you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Still, being a senior does sometimes come with its aches and pains. A senior dog may walk much slower, with a limp or have trouble walking at all. A senior dog may be hard of hearing, and she probably doesn’t see like she used to. But don’t fret: There are products you can provide that will help make their golden years healthy and happy.
Here are a few of our favorites:
An Orthopedic Bed
If you’ve ever woken up with a pain in the neck — literally — then you know how important a good mattress is. An orthopedic bed is designed to support the body, maintain or facilitate proper spinal alignment and reduce pain.
Senior dogs may suffer from a variety of muscular and/or skeletal issues, including arthritis, hip dysplasia and muscle loss. A goodwill alleviate painful pressure on bones and joints, and the extra support makes it easier to get on and off.
These beds are made of orthopedic and memory foam, which conforms to the body and cushions it in all the right places. The best beds have thick foam and won’t flatten out when your dog lies down. A bolster or sides to support the dog’s neck is also recommended.
Dogs that once effortlessly leaped onto the bed or the couch may now struggle to get up. Jumping off puts them at risk of injury or even a broken bone. Dogs that can still jump up may have low or no vision and find it impossible to judge the height accurately. If your dog has more misses than hits, you need some pet stairs or a pet ramp.
Pet stairs are portable staircases. They come in various heights and materials. Height refers to the top step and also to the height between each step. They are made from materials like wood, foam, plastic and metal.
There are various considerations that will help you choose the best steps for your dog. First, measure the height of the bed, couch, or chair. The proper height of each stair riser depends on the size of your dog and his or her capability; small dogs need steps that are closer together. Scalloped, foam stairs are the easiest to navigate. Finally, make sure that the stairs can support your dog’s weight.
Soft Dog Toys
Just because our dogs get older, doesn’t mean they want to stop playing. As a dog parent, you need to be more selective in the toys you give them.
There are plenty of furry, squeaker toys that provide lots of joy. Look for ones that come from reputable companies and are of high-quality – otherwise, you run the risk of parts getting swallowed. Also, consider softer toys and ones that are unstuffed (so, no worries about the white filling all over your house, or in their throat). Keep in mind, these toys are suitable for smaller senior dogs are gentle chewers.
If you dog is a more aggressive chewer, consider a more pliable, all-natural rubber toy. This type of material allows dogs to continue to chew but won’t damage their teeth. Also, look for toys that are bright in color, so your dog can spot them easier.
Dog ramps are an alternative to steps indoors and for use in cars or vans. If it’s painful for your dog to lift his feet, then a ramp may be the best choice.
Ramps that help your dog into a car or van are built differently than ramps for a bed or couch. A ramp for a car or van tends to be portable, foldable and weigh less. You must measure the height you need for your vehicle, and choose one that has a gripping surface so your dog won’t fall off. Check the weight of the ramp to make sure you can lift it.
Ramps for indoors come in a variety of heights and widths. They are often covered with carpet or a gripping material, and some have little ridges to make it easier to navigate. With a variety of heights, widths and weight limits, you can find one that’s perfect for your dog.
Cooling and Warming Mats
These mats can be activated by the dog’s weight or powered by electricity. A warming mat is therapeutic for dogs that have stiff joints or muscle aches. Ais helpful for hot days, especially for seniors who have trouble breathing and for brachiocephalic breeds like bulldogs.
Warming mats come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are self-heating, but for real benefits, the electric ones keep the heat at a very low level, akin to a heating pad. It is good for a sore body or just for a cold day.
Top Picks: Cooling mat:; Warming mat:
Walking Lift Harness
Sometimes an older dog needs a little help getting around. These harnesses are designed to take some pressure off your dog’s legs, hips or spine. A lifting harness fits on your dog like a regular harness, but it has a handle on the back that you can use to assist your dog.
Some are designed for just general lifting for senior dogs who just need a little help. Others are designed specifically to lift either the rear or the front part of the dog. These help dogs who cannot walk without this assistance.
Top Picks: Support Harness:; Front or Rear Lift:
Dog Stroller or Wagon
If your dog has reached the point where he can no longer walk, but he still has a good quality of life, he can experience the outdoors nestled comfortably in a dog stroller or wagon.
A wagon is a good choice for large or heavy dogs. Some are even made to navigate rough terrain or bad weather. A stroller also works well for dogs (but you may have to put up with some annoying snickers), and some will hold dogs up to 75 pounds or even multiple small dogs.
Top Picks: Stroller: Pet Gear and Wagon: and
Raised Food and Water Bowls
These bowls are raised to a level that make it easier for senior dogs to eat and drink. It reduces strain on the neck and back, and it’s also good for dogs that have spinal injuries such as slipped discs.
Keep in mind, there’s been some concern that elevated bowls can cause, so please consult with your veterinarian before making the switch.