How to Create the Perfect Environment for your Older Dog

Dogs in Motion article about how to create the perfect environment for your older dog by Michelle Monk

As your dog matures in years, it is natural for their muscles to weaken and their mobility to progressively reduce. These will leave them more vulnerable to injuries and arthritis which can cause aches and pains. Creating the perfect environment for your older dog can help to extend both the duration and the quality of their life.

Follow these points below to give you and your dog the best chance of enjoying their later years. Helping them to be happy, healthy, mobile and comfortable.

Consider their mobility

Be conscious of slippery surfaces and hard to navigate terrain such as stairs when creating the perfect environment for your older dog. These things can create more difficulty in movement and pain for an older dog and create a higher risk of injuries.  Weaker muscles have to work hard to hold up legs on slippery floors. Strategies that can be used to combat this include putting down runners, rugs or mats to make all the surfaces they have to walk across non-slip. It may also be appropriate to consider boots to prevent them from slipping and sliding.

Placing ramps over the area where there only a few stairs can make it safer for your older pet to move up and down. IF you have a double storey, make sure the steps are well lit so they can be seen, and have a non-slip surface. Placing gates at the top and bottom to stop free-access to the stairs can also reduce the risk of injury and slipping. If your dog is needing assistance with mobility, then use a harness or a sling to provide extra support. There are many different harnesses or slings that would be appropriate for your dog.  Please click here for more information.

Adequate rest

It becomes more important as your dog becomes older to have a firm and supportive bed. This can help reduce aches and pains that can be caused by sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t provide support. If it's too thin, or flattens when your dog lies on it, or one that is difficult to move around because it's too soft and squashy. Both of these common bedding options can leave your pet sorer, from their sleeping and give them inadequate rest.

Think of how you feel after sleeping on a bad hotel mattress. If you’ve ever had to do this with a sore back or neck, you will appreciate the importance of a good mattress for yourself and your pet! We recommend using a bed that your dog is able to walk on and off easily when creating the perfect environment for your older dog. And one that is flat down on the ground rather than raised on legs.

Which bed creates the perfect environment for your older dog

At Dogs in Motion, we recommend ‘Henry Hottie’ beds for any dogs and especially if you are creating the perfect environment for your older dog. These beds offer firm support and are made of a thermally bonded fibres to help keep your dog’s joints warm.  The Henry Hottie bed is also at ground level making it easy to walk on and off.  They are also manufactured chemically free, which is another great reason why we love them.

As well as a good bed, it is important to allow your dog to have an adequate amount of rest time throughout the day, so their muscles and joints can recuperate.  Make sure their bed is in a location free from drafts and excessive noise and interruption or traffic. If you have a young dog, make sure your older dog can seek a save ‘haven’ to rest at times, away from the younger dog.

Remember rest is one of the keys for regeneration and healing of body tissues. If your dog’s muscles and joints aren’t given the time to rest and recover, then they may have ongoing difficulty getting up from rest and then moving about due to ongoing pain and stiffness.

Toxic Environment

Most people aren’t aware of the toxins their dogs are living amongst on a daily basis and how many are in the environment for your older dog. We want to keep our house clean, but it's important to make sure our pets are exposed to as few toxins as possible, all ages, but particularly if they are frail. Let's start with those in many dog’s beds.  These can include: fire retardants, formaldehyde and disease-causing carcinogens. Your dog spends much time on their bed and it's important to make sure the fabrics are toxic free like ‘Henry Hottie’. At the very least wash the bedding before your pet uses it.

It is important to consider the products your pet’s paws may come into contact with. From the products, you use to clean and polish your house with, especially floor cleaning products, to the products used in the garden. If these chemicals and toxins are transferred to your dog through their skin or feet and they lick them, it can get into their system. These toxins can affect an older dog’s health even more than a younger dog if their immune system is frail.

We recommend that you use environmentally friendly cleaning products, wash your dog’s feet if the garden has been sprayed with pesticide or weed killer and to use chemically free blankets and bedding such as the Henry Hottie beds.

Shelter from the elements

Older dogs will feel the effects of extremes of weather more so than younger dogs. When considering the perfect environment for your older dog we need to make sure they are protected from the elements for a safe and comfortable long life. During hotter days, dogs can be more prone to overheating and dehydration.

Ideally, your dog should be kept indoors with a fan or air conditioning if possible. If this isn’t possible then make sure your dog has a shaded area with ample cool water to drink.

They also feel the cold more. They have less muscle which means less ability to maintain body temperature in the cold. The cold can also increase joint stiffness and create more pain if they have arthritis. Keep them warm in winter preferably indoors in a warm area with a coat and if outdoors, then sheltered from wind and rain, with a kennel and coat.

We know you want your beloved canine to live a long happy comfortable life. Creating the best environment you can for them can mean a happier and healthier dog later in life. Combine this with the right nutrition and the best exercises for your older dog and throw in a massage or two in our clinic, and you can both enjoy each other’s company for a lot longer.

If you would like further information on how to best look after your older dog, please book in to see one of our Physiotherapists.

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Dogs in Motion offers clinic appointments in Melbourne and online physiotherapy consultations Australia wide. Contact us today to discover what you can do to extend the longevity and quality of your senior dog's life.

About Michelle Monk

I am completely passionate about providing access to rehabilitation for as many dogs and their owners as possible. Not just through my own clinics but also by teaching other health professionals such as Vets, Vet Nurses and Physiotherapists how to provide quality rehabilitation in their clinics.