Dogs experience the process of aging, just as people do. You can make the “golden years” of your beloved furry friends much more comfortable with a little extra attention to their diet and supplements. Some additional care items may be needed to prevent injury from dogs slipping and sliding on hardwood stairs and floors.
Natural Remedies for Aging Dogs
Apple Cider Vinegar
Helpful to many older dog afflictions, apple cider vinegar is used to treat conditions from arthritis to allergies to bladder problems, including incontinence in dogs.
While dogs natural produce vitamin C, sick dogs or otherwise compromised dogs (like elderly dogs) do not always produce enough of their own vitamin C. Vitamin C helps with tissue repair and joints.
MSM is a supplement commonly given to pets and taken by humans to help with joint pain, arthritis, allergies, skin problems, etc.
Glucosamine is a natural sugar that is found in joints. This supplement, often combined with chondroitin, often gives dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasia a new lease on life as it replaces what their aging bodies do not have enough of without supplementation.
Chlorella is a fresh water algae that is used as a supplement to help with arthritis and low energy.
A safe and inexpensive broad spectrum herb, turmeric is helpful for many conditions that afflict older animals. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory herb. It is often found to help with arthritis, skin problems, allergies, tumors and cancers. Turmeric can be given to dogs in its powdered form or made into Golden Paste.
Essiac Tea is a popular, gentle treatment for cancer, tumors or other chronic health problems, including digestive issues. Essiac tea has improved the quality of life of many older pets.
Humble castor oil, from the pharmacy, is useful to older dogs that suffer with tumors, cysts or cataracts.
Castor Oil can be massaged into cysts, tumors or painful joints to reduce inflammation and bring pain relief.
A drop of castor oil in each eye is a natural remedy that is painless and has been effective for cataracts in dogs. It is best to use castor oil in the eyes at night before you pet goes to bed, since castor oil can cause some temporary blurriness.
Massage for Older Dogs
Even though they rarely show it, dogs have aches and pains as much as people do. Giving them a 10 minute daily, gentle massage will do wonders for their aching hips, neck and sore paws. Dogs love to have their necks massaged! In fact, we've never known a dog to refuse a neck massage. Indeed, most dogs will let you know how wonderful it feels to them to have their necks massaged by bending their heads down so you can get into the neck muscles just below the skull more deeply. You'll know you've got them in "the zone" when they look at you, open their mouths and start smiling.
We highly recommend studying the TTouch method for dogs by Linda Tellington.
Dietary Considerations for Older Dogs
Your older dog may be a bit finicky with his food. He may need less food than he did as a younger more active dog. Make the calories count for your dog to maximize what his body has to work with to support his health. Use a high quality food, make your own, or do a little bit of both. See if your city has a company that makes homemade food for dogs. A popular premium dog food company in Los Angeles called Just Food For Dogs, for example, makes high quality food for dogs. If you don't have time to cook for your dogs, you should look into this.
Exercise for Older Dogs
If your dog is used to regular exercise, it is best for him to continue with whatever level of exercise is comfortable for him. Let him be the guide, though. He may slow down and rest more. That is okay. Just let him have the opportunities for the amount of exercise he enjoys. It may be that he does better with two shorter walks each day than one long one. Fresh air and sunshine are important even if he doesn’t want to walk. If you have a fenced yard for your dog, make sure he has a comfortable place in which to lay in the warm sunshine as he desires.
Support Items for Your Older Dog
Consider upgrading your dog’s bed. Older dogs are likely to sleep more and spend more time lying down. An orthopedic memory foam bed is an excellent choice for aging dogs. These popular beds come in various sizes.
Older dogs, like older people, may not produce their own heat so well. Make sure your pet’s sleeping area is warm. Concrete floors can be especially cold, even with a comfortable bed. There is a reason that artists depict old dogs sleeping in front of a fireplace. If you do not have a fireplace, a space heater or hot water bottle may give your dog some extra warmth in the colder seasons. Older dogs may not appreciate air conditioning or drafts as they used to. Pay attention to your dog’s cues of feeling cold. And you can always ask yourself, would I want to sleep there? If the answer is a resounding No! then it's time to improve the bedding area.
You can even buy special heating pads to keep your elderly pet warm.
Prevent Slipping With Ramps and Steps
Elderly dogs, like elderly people can benefit from ramps and steps. If you dog has arthritis or shows difficulty getting into the car, on the couch or bed, etc. Consider special stools or ramps to assist them. Make sure these ramps or steps or sturdy. Read all the online reviews before you buy anything! Wobbly steps and ramps will make your dog feel insecure.
Use Non skid tape on steps that are not carpeted may also make your dog's ascent or decent feel safer for him.
Paw Wax is a popular item that will prevent your dog from slipping on icy surfaces in the winter. It also protects dogs pads from burning on a hot pavement in the summer, or from arduous hikes. Some folks use paw wax indoors though it does leave behind a waxy residue on hardwood floors. People who used it both indoors and outdoors recommend that you apply the wax just before going a walk.
Did you know that you can get non-skid doggie socks? These are especially helpful on vinyl, tile or hardwood floors to give your dog extra traction. They will also help keep your dog’s paws a little warmer.
A support harness can be used so that you can comfortably help your dog with tasks like getting into the car or going up or down the stairs.
Special dog wheelchairs allow continued mobility for disabled dogs. They are designed so that dogs can do their outdoor business even while using the wheelchair. Some dogs may only need a special wheelchair while recovering from surgery. Others may need them long term.
Elevated Food Bowls
Elevating a dog’s food bowls is a controversial issue. For most dogs, it is best to have the bowls on the floor. But if your dog has arthritis or other pain especially in her neck, elevating the food may make meals more comfortable for her.
Founder and CEO of Earth Clinic, has an extensive background in health and healing. She created EarthClinic.com in 1999 as a way to teach people about natural remedies and alternative healing therapies. Since then, thousands of people around the world and their pets have been healed by the remedies found on Earth Clinic. Deirdre holds a BA from Mount Holyoke College in Philosophy and is the author of the book Apple Cider Vinegar: A Modern Folk Remedy.