How to Provide Mental Enrichment for Dogs with Limited Mobility
Source: Jessica Remitz / PetMD
Even though your senior dog may not move as well as he used to, there are still a variety of things you can do to keep their minds sharp, many of which you’ve been doing throughout their lives. Understanding their limitations and keeping these tips in mind will help keep your dog happy and healthy regardless of their age.
Adapt to their age
It can be difficult to realise that your once happy-go-lucky puppy has turned into a more mature adult, but it’s important to accommodate your dog as it continues to age. If your dog is having trouble moving around your home — going up stairs or getting up to greet you at the door, for example — help them by installing ramps or stairs around your home and furniture and try to keep them comfortable throughout the day.
Keep them moving
The type of mobility issue your pet has will differ from dog to dog, but many senior dogs experience some form of osteoarthritis. Although jumping, running and walking long distances will be challenging, you should continue to keep up with daily walks. While it may hurt to move, it will hurt them less if they get some sort of exercise.
Try taking shorter walks to stimulate their senses of sight, smell and hearing as well as keeping their joints lubricated and their limbs in motion. If possible, try a new route every now and again to stimulate their senses even more. If your dog is good with other animals, allow them to continue interacting with dogs of all ages to keep their minds sharp and bodies generally active.
Give suitable toys
From food toys to bones and chews for your pet, there are a variety of games and activities to help keep their minds sharp without taking a toll on their joints. You could also split up mealtime by feeding your pooch half of their meal in a food puzzle (especially if you use antioxidant-rich foods, which have been attributed with helping brain function). Using a food puzzle will not only slow down their eating (a bonus for heavier dogs) but forces them to use their minds for an extended period of time. Tug and chew toys are also excellent options for dogs as they require little movement.
Teach a new trick
We often think that by being older, our dogs won’t be able to learn as much or practice skills they honed years ago, but teaching them new commands or retracing old obedience school tricks could help keep their minds sharp. Even if your dog’s attention span is bit shorter or minds foggier, focus on simple commands that don’t require much movement but can be challenging enough to keep your dog engaged.
Spend quality time together
Spending time with you is a high-reward activity for a dog. Grab a squeaky or tug toy and engage them in some light play or practice giving a few commands.
Time spent with you may be the most important mental enrichment your dog can get, even if it’s just a long belly rub, ear scratch or just lying next to you.
Natural Therapy options
Bowen Therapy and/or Homeopathy can support your animal’s mobility and therefor mental health. I have several clients whose elderly dogs enjoy a monthly Bowen Therapy treatment and have better mobility as a result. Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about these therapies.
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The information contained in this website is not intended to replace guidance from your veterinarian. Bowen Therapy and Homeopathy are complementary to veterinary treatment and the general care of the animal.