It is hard to see our dogs, who once did zoomies around the house, start to age. Seeing them struggle on stairs or to get up off the floor can be heartbreaking. But there are many things that you can do to improve their quality of life.
As always, you are best able to help your dog if you have a proper diagnosis. Once you know what is wrong, you know how best to accommodate it or treat it. In general, here are some options other than prescription medication that can help your dog with mobility problems.
- Swimming is almost always good for an old dog or one with a disability. If you can find a good dog pool, give it a try. It makes old dogs feel young again both because it allows them to exercise and increase their heart rate to release endorphins, and because it strengthens their body.
- There are some great harnesses on the market. Ruff Wear makes a harness that has a handle on the back to help lift a dog off the floor or stabilize him and can be worn all day if needed. For dogs with more significant disabilities, particularly in the hind end, I recommend the Help ‘Em Up Harness. It is not a harness you can leave on 24 hours a day, but it has handles at the shoulders and the hips for lifting a large dog off the floor without a lot of drama.
- If your dog is slipping on your floors at home, consider carpet squares or yoga mats. It will provide the needed traction. Also be sure nails are kept short so that your dog is up on his pads and clip the hair between the pads so that he gets traction and is slipping on his own hair.
- Consider trying acupuncture, laser, or chiropractic care. There are veterinary acupuncturists, and many vet offices now have cold laser machines that can help with inflammation in the joints with repeated use. These options, unfortunately, also can come with a hefty price tag.
- Do some basic strength exercises at home with your dog if he is able. For example, you can ask your dog to sit, but then call him to come and reward him getting up and coming to you. This is the doggy equivalent of squats! You can also get your dog to stretch by putting a cookie on his hip and getting him turn around to get it, or look up and look down for a cookie. Lastly, you can also do some home massage to make those old muscles feel better – just don’t press too hard.
- If you want to try some alternative medicine, many dogs respond well to CBD oil. Some also respond well to turmeric (which needs to be prepared with black pepper and coconut oil to have the desired effect). Dogs of most any age also benefit from fish oil and Vitamin E.
There are many ways to help your dog through the aging process and strengthen your bond, all at the same time. Give different things a try and see what works best for you and your pup.