Life can be a bit tricky for senior dogs. They don’t hear as well as they used to, and sometimes they don’t see that well, either. Arthritis can cause pain in their joints, too. All this can lead to anxiety in older dogs, who don’t feel as able to get along in life as well as they used to.
The good news is that you can do a lot to help your senior dog feel more comfortable, despite these old-age issues.
If your dog is losing his hearing, teach him hand signals so he will understand what you want even though he can no longer hear your voice. You’ll be amazed at how quickly he’ll catch on. Use your hand to motion to him to come to you, and to stop when you want him to stay. You can teach him hand signals for sit and down too. Your dog will feel more confident knowing that he can still rely on you for direction even though he can’t hear you.
When you approach your hearing-impaired dog, make sure he sees you because he won’t be able to hear you coming. Otherwise, he may become startled to the point of panic. If he’s asleep or not looking in your direction, try stamping your foot on the ground. The vibration will catch his attention and keep him from being alarmed at your sudden appearance.
When older dogs develop cataracts or other eye issues that cause them to lose their sight, they often find great ways to adapt, especially if the loss was gradual. You can do a lot to help your dog adjust to his disability and feel comfortable at home. Start by making a household rule not to move any of the furniture. Your dog will memorize where objects are located, and will be able to get around the house easily if you keep everything where it is.
If your dog has lost his vision, he will rely more on his other senses, especially scent. Allow him to sniff the hand of people who want to approach him so he can get acquainted without the need to make a visual connection. Be sensitive to his loss of sight when exposing him to new situations. Remember that it will take him longer to feel confident in new places.
Arthritis often sets in when a dog gets older, making it painful for him to move around. You can help your dog feel better despite his joint pain by making some adjustments.
First, get him an orthopedic bed. Designed to help arthritic dogs be more comfortable, an orthopedic bed will make it easier for your dog to get up and move around after he’s been lying down.
If you have wood or tile floors, put nonslip rugs in the areas where your dog spends his time. Giving him some traction will help him walk more easily on a slippery surface.
Remember that arthritis makes it hard for your dog to jump up on your bed or into the car. Buy a set of doggy stairs or build him a ramp so he can still sleep with you and get in and out of the car on his own. You may have to help him get used to the stairs or ramp if he’s never used them before. Try coaxing him with treats until he gets the hang of it.
Give your senior dog plenty of love and patience during his golden years. The little things you do for him will make his life happier and healthier.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.