Tail-Wagging Wellness: How Older Adults Can Prioritize Their Dog's Health

Caring for older dogs offers a unique opportunity for older adults to engage in nurturing and meaningful activities, promoting a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This mutual care strengthens the bond between pets and their owners, enhancing emotional well-being and encouraging a more active lifestyle for seniors.

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Tail-Wagging Wellness: How Older Adults Can Prioritize Their Dog's Health
6 Min Read March 21st, 2024

Life's pace often slows in our golden years, and our four-legged pals greatly brighten our days. However, looking after both ourselves and our furry friends presents unique challenges. While we have access to a variety of help for our own needs, finding similar support for pet care can be tough. There are resources available geared toward helping older pet owners ensure their dogs remain happy and healthy.

Adapting Pet Play for the Golden Years

In the sunset years, our pace might slow, but even senior dogs have a zest for life that deserves to be nourished rather than quashed. You or an older parent may have to balance physical capabilities with the needs of an energetic dog, which means thinking outside the box.

Dogs, like people, need to remain active. Opt for spots where your dog can roam free, like dog-friendly beaches or parks, where you can relax while listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or music on a nearby bench. Instead of walking long distances, try playing games that involve less movement, such as tug-of-war or hide-and-seek. This way, both you and your dog can enjoy quality time together while staying active.

If you have access to a backyard, consider setting up an obstacle course for your dog, featuring low jumps, tunnels, and other engaging activities to keep them entertained and active. Additionally, you might explore various puzzle games or treat-dispensing toys indoors that offer mental stimulation instead of physical exertion.

Make Your Home a Safe Haven for Seniors and Dogs Alike

Adapting your living space benefits both you and your furry friend as you grow older together, ensuring your comfort and safety while promoting your dog's health and well-being. By incorporating simple yet effective modifications, you can create an environment that caters to both your needs.

Non-Slip Surfaces

As we age, our balance and mobility may become compromised, making us more prone to accidents when we can't resist our dog's invitation to play. 

According to Melissa Whitmill, MD, trauma medical director at Kettering Health Main Campus in Kettering, Ohio, there is a national rise in falls among older adults.

Only about half of older-adult falls are reported. Usually, the non-injury falls are the ones that aren't reported.

Dr. Whitmill says the main deterrent to older people sharing about a fall is the fear that they'll lose their independence. There are ways to limit the risk of falls to start with and reduce the risk of a serious fall.

To avoid potential falls, consider adding non-slip rugs throughout your home, especially in high-traffic areas like hallways and stairs. These rugs provide traction for both you and your dog, preventing slips and injuries.

Elevated Food and Water Bowls

As we age, bending down to the floor can become challenging, putting strain on our joints and muscles. Investing in elevated food and water bowls for your dog enables them to eat and drink more comfortably while also lowering the risk of bloating, which is prevalent in larger dog breeds.

Secure Gates and Barriers

For seniors, keeping up with your dog's energy levels can be challenging, especially if they love to run and explore. That's why it's crucial to have secure gates and barriers inside and outside your home. This ensures you get enough "me time" and prevents your dog from wandering off or encountering potentially dangerous situations.

Create a Care Plan for Your Pet

As a senior, surprises and stress are the last things you want, so planning ahead is wise. Dealing with emergencies can be particularly challenging for older adults, especially concerning your dog. Planning for the future and having a contingency plan for your pet ensures that your furry friend receives the necessary care in emergencies.

  • Make a list of emergency contacts: In case of an emergency or if you cannot care for your dog, it is important to have a list of reliable and trusted contacts who can provide assistance. This could include family members, friends, or even pet sitters.
  • Plan for daily care: Ensure that your dog is well taken care of on a daily basis by arranging for someone to check in on them regularly. This could be a neighbor, family member, or hired pet sitter.
  • Keep your pet's medical information up to date: Make sure to keep their medical records updated and easily accessible for any potential emergencies.
  • Prepare for financial costs: As a senior, it's important to be financially prepared for any unexpected expenses that may arise with your pet's care. Consider setting aside a specific amount each month for potential vet bills or other necessary supplies.
  • Plan for the worst-case scenario: It's challenging to think about, but it's important to plan for the worst-case scenario. Make sure that you have a designated caretaker in case something happens to you, and ensure that they are aware of your pet's specific needs and preferences.

Choosing the Right Veterinarian: Ensuring Your Dog's Health and Wellness Through the Years

Finding a good veterinarian for your dog is crucial for maintaining its health and wellness as it ages. A competent vet provides routine care and understands the specific needs of older dogs, including nutrition, exercise, and managing age-related conditions. Look for a veterinarian who communicates clearly, shows compassion, and has experience with geriatric pet care. 

Recommendations from fellow pet owners, online reviews, and local pet groups can be valuable resources in your search. Finding a vet who makes you and your dog feel comfortable and supported is essential to fostering a positive environment for your dog's health care.

Regular check-ups with a trusted vet play a significant role in early detection and treatment of potential health issues, ensuring a better quality of life for your aging dog. Discussing a comprehensive wellness plan that includes preventive care, dental health, and weight management is essential. As your dog grows older, their health care needs can change, requiring diet, exercise regimen, and medication adjustments. 

Establishing a strong relationship with a reliable vet ensures that you have expert advice and support every step of the way, helping your dog to enjoy their golden years in the best possible health.

Companionship and Health: The Benefits of Dogs for Older Adults

Taking care of your pet is important, but that dog can also benefit your health. Dogs have a remarkable ability to enhance the health and well-being of older adults. They offer companionship, emotional support, and physical health benefits. Their presence can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, which are common concerns among older adults. 

Engaging with a dog provides a sense of purpose and routine, encouraging daily activities and interactions that promote mental health. The unconditional love and companionship dogs offer can elevate mood, reduce stress, and increase feelings of happiness.

Physically, dogs encourage more active lifestyles. Regular walks and playtime with a dog can improve cardiovascular health, increase physical activity levels, and maintain mobility and flexibility. These activities can also contribute to weight management and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. The routine of caring for a dog helps older adults maintain a structured day, enhancing their overall sense of well-being.

Moreover, dogs have been shown to have a calming effect, which can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety levels. Research has shown that owning a pet provides an amazing array of health benefits, says Jeremy Barron, M.D., medical director of the Beacham Center for Geriatric Medicine at Johns Hopkins.

Caring for a pet provides a sense of purpose to the owner. Plus, pets are a good social catalyst for meeting people who share your animal interests.

A dog's ability to sense emotion and provide comfort without judgment fosters an emotional bond that can be particularly therapeutic for those facing health challenges or loss. Studies have even indicated that dog owners may experience fewer doctor visits, showcasing the direct impact of canine companionship on health care needs.

In addition to these benefits, the social interactions that dogs encourage can be invaluable. Dog owners often engage more with their community, whether it's through conversations during walks or social gatherings at dog parks. This interaction promotes a sense of belonging and contributes to a social support network, crucial for mental and emotional health.

In essence, dogs offer a multifaceted approach to improving the health and well-being of older adults. They bring joy, companionship, and a host of physical and emotional benefits that can significantly enhance the quality of life for seniors.

Wrapping Up

You can maintain the unique bond between you and your dog for years with thoughtful planning, creativity, and patience. It's important to consider both your needs and your dog's, tailor activities to your abilities, and ask for help when necessary. 

Most importantly, treasure every moment with your furry companion—they are indeed one of life's greatest joys. By embracing these strategies, you'll ensure a fulfilling relationship with your pet, filled with love and companionship, throughout your senior years.

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About the Author

Sophia Young became a writer be able to tell stories and paint the world through her words. She writes on a variety of topics that interest her and her readers. Contact her at - sophguestwriter@gmail.com

LTC News Contributor Sophia Young

Sophia Young

Contributor since September 16th, 2021

Editor's Note

As humans, we can care for our aging dogs, but planning for our own future aging involves more detailed preparation. As you age, changes in your health, body, and mind increase the risk of needing help with daily living activities like eating, bathing, and toileting or supervision due to declining memory. 

Health insurance and Medicare don't cover long-term care costs, as they only pay for short-term skilled care. This means that unless you include Long-Term Care Insurance in your retirement plan, you'll be responsible for covering care costs, or your adult children might have to step in as caregivers—or possibly both. 

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The ideal time to get LTC Insurance is when you are in your 40s or 50s. However, younger people will sometimes take advantage of lower premiums and better health and plan early. Those in their 60s and older can find affordable options depending on their health.

Be sure to seek the help of a qualified, independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist representing the top brands to help you find the most affordable options based on your age and health.

An LTC specialist will ask you detailed health questions before giving you accurate quotes from all the top-rated insurance companies that offer long-term care solutions. 

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