Injuries can happen to pets and people of any age. However, just as elderly people are more at risk for some types of injuries, so are dogs more prone to them during their golden years.
If you've had your dog for a long time, his transition into an older dog may be so slow and gradual that you are one day shocked to realize your dog is a senior! And whereas the aging process in humans happens over the course of decades, it can occur in a few short years with man’s best friend.
You may suddenly realize your dear companion has gray hairs, a slower gait and cloudy eyes. It is probably time for you to ramp up returning the protection and comfort that he has given you over his lifetime.
Age Related Ailments that Contribute to Dog's Injury Risk
Like people, older dogs can suffer a variety of age-related ailments including:
- Vision impairment
- Hearing loss
- Unsteady gait
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Weight loss or gain
- Poor appetite
- Memory problems
- Skin issues
- Oral health issues
Taking these concerns into consideration, you can make changes to your dog’s environment to ensure that she remains as safe and comfortable as possible, thereby reducing her risk for injuries.
1. Safe Floors
If you have an older dog, make sure that the floors are safe! Stiff joints and hip dysplasia can make walking a chore for your older dog, even on safe floors. Slippery floors like wood, vinyl and tile can be very difficult for a dog to keep his balance and can be downright frightening to your dog. Rugs with no-skid backing or carpets can ensure that he can walk with a level of confidence.
Because of arthritis and joint issues, older dogs should not be jumping up onto couches and beds. A ramp (with a non-skid surface) will allow your older dog to safely get to the places where he is used to resting.
Ramps can also be used to assist your dog into a car.
3. Remove “Stumbling Blocks”
Older dogs often have poor vision, and this can happen without you even realizing it. Keep his path clear, especially if you notice him bumping into things. Maintaining a setting that is as familiar as possible will help. If he is on unfamiliar territory, pay attention to the surroundings for him and make the area as safe and comfortable as you can for him.
4. Don’t Rush
Allow your older dog to take his time and be sure footed. Plan for to take extra time to get outside or to the car. Anticipate his needs to eliminate outdoors ahead of time to reduce the risk of accidents, which do happen to be more common among older dogs.
Arthritis and hip dysplasia can cause a dog to put more weight on his front legs and shoulders. Because this is not the natural position for a dog, the front legs as well as the back may experience pain and stiffness, especially in the muscles. Allowing your dog extra time to “warm up” before a walk and gently massaging any tight muscles can make his walks and pit stops easier.
5. Reduce Pressure Sore Risk
Sedentary older dogs are at greater risk for pressure sores, especially on the hips, hocks and elbows. A soft but well supporting bed will reduce the risk of pressure sores. If your dog does develop pressure sores, raw honey can be used topically to treat the sore. Use cohesive tape to secure honey and gauze to the wound and change the dressing daily. You can also buy manuka honey bandages (meant for burns) in your local pharmacy.
Pressure sores are painful and at risk for infection. They can take a long time to heal, even with good wound care.
6. Consider Choking Hazards
Due to aging digestive systems, reduced jaw strength, possible tooth loss or decay, your dog may have more difficulty eating and swallowing, making choking a greater risk for him. Choking is scary and can even cause death. Your older dog may need softer, easier to chew and swallow foods. Pay attention to his cues and make sure he is able to eat comfortably. Food that is difficult to chew or sticky should be avoided. A food processor can be used to make food easier to eat, if he is having trouble with food that is chunkier. Also make sure to soften his kibble with water at least 5 minutes before feeding to help with digestion.
7. Street Smart
While you may not be worried about your older dog running into a road with oncoming traffic as you did when he was a pup, your older dog can still be at risk for this terrible type of injury. If your older dog does not hear well, see well or should become disoriented, he could still wander into the road unaware. Continue safety practices for your older dog, even if it seems unnecessary.
Your older dog has been your patient friend for years. Now you can return that love and patience with him.
How do you keep your older dog safe and protect him from injuries? Please send us some feedback!
Additional Pages of Interest:
Natural Care for Aging Dogs