Keep Your Older Dog Happy in Retirement

Our furry friends live much longer than they used to—just like we do!

And, just like us, as our dogs age, we need to make accommodations to ensure their comfort and safety. Here are a few things you can do to make your senior happy in retirement.

Evaluate the Feeding Routine

As our dogs age, their nutritional requirements change. Many older dogs get less high-intensity exercise, and their metabolisms start to slow down. However, you don’t want your senior packing on the pounds. Chat with your vet to establish some guidelines for his nutrition needs, and then adjust his feeding routine to figure out the exact balance. That includes treats! With all dogs generally and older dogs specifically, treat calories count. Keep an eye on how many he gets in a day to adjust his meals accordingly.

Consider a Bed Upgrade

Your elderly dog may experience bone and joint stiffness. Some dogs suffer from arthritis (check with your vet if you notice your dog having a hard time getting up or climbing stairs). If you notice your dog moving slowly or feeling tight through the muscles, it might be time to invest in an orthopedic bed. Designed to provide specific support for stiffness, an orthopedic bed may help your elderly girl spring out of bed a little easier in the morning. Some options even include an electric heating feature, perfect for dogs who live in colder climates to warm up aching bones.

Take on Low-Impact Exercise

Weight gain is common among older animals, but it can prove detrimental to their long-term wellness. In addition to adjusting your aging dog’s feeding routine, her exercise routine needs to be adjusted, too. Elderly dogs require exercise but diminish the intensity and impact of her favorite activities. Instead of a long run, consider a leisurely walk. Swimming is an excellent low-intensity, calorie-torching exercise. Don’t forget: You need to exercise her mind, too. You can and should teach an old dog new tricks to keep her brain active. Skip aerobic tricks like “roll over,” and teach her easy-on-the-joints tricks like “speak” or nose targeting. Games like scent work and solving puzzle toys provide a senior with low-impact exercise that’s fun for both of you.

Double Up on Vet Visits

Rather than an annual checkup, vets recommend semi-annual visits for seniors. These exams include a routine physical and usually a blood panel and urinalysis. Just like in humans, dogs live longer and, thus, experience age-related illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and senility. Staying on top of routine care will help you and your vet catch—and treat—senior wellness issues quickly.

Meet the Author: Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.

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