Orthopedic Dog Bed
While an orthopedic bed is a good purchase no matter how old your dog is, it’s absolutely vital for senior dogs. They need far more support than a cheap pillow-style bed filled with polyester stuffing can provide. Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a fabulously supportive bed, nor do you even have to get a memory foam mattress.
Elevated cot beds on legs, for example, are inexpensive and practical yet offer great support. The design helps distribute your dog’s weight across the entire cot, so there are no pressure points that put more strain on their joints. While a few chew-proof models can run $150+, since most older dogs are beyond their puppy chewing phase, it’s possible to get one that isn’t chew-resistant for under $30.
Of course, memory foam mattresses are fantastic, too. Just make sure you’re choosing a bed made with Certipur-Us foam, as it’s guaranteed to be non-toxic. Look for mattresses that promise to keep their shape and loft, too. You don’t want to invest in a 7” mattress only to find that it sags down to 2” under the weight of your dog.
Waterproof blankets & covers
A waterproof blanket or cover – either for your dog’s bed or your own – is a smart buy. Unfortunately, aside from the elevated cot beds, even dog beds that claim to be waterproof are more along the lines of just water-resistant. In other words, urine can leak through and damage the mattress.
While some pet bed manufacturers also make waterproof “upgrades,” they’re often fairly expensive. Fortunately, this is actually something you can make yourself. Buy waterproof mattress pads that are larger than the bed itself. Take off the top cover and wrap the bed in the pads, then replace the top cover. Voila, waterproof dog bed at a fraction of the price!
If your dog sleeps with you, you’ll also want to upgrade your own bed with a waterproof mattress cover. Again, they’re fairly inexpensive. While you’re at it, grab a few sofa covers and other protection for furniture that your dog regularly uses.
Ramps and Stairs
Even if your dog isn’t prone to problems like hip dysplasia and arthritis, general aches and pains are still a part of growing older. That’s why ramps and stairs become one of the most important pieces of senior dog pet gear. Fido can’t really make the leap up into your bed! Rather than lifting him yourself every time (which leads to a whole new set of aches and pains, except in your own joints), let him just stroll up a ramp.
Which do you get, though? Ramps or stairs? That depends on your breed and his needs. Ramps are a little easier for small dogs, especially if they’re suffering from elbow dysplasia. Think about it, when you walk up a set of stairs, you’re using all sorts of different muscles compared to when you just walk up a ramp.
On the other hand, if your space is limited and Fido doesn’t have an issue bending his legs, stairs are a more practical solution. It’s a lot easier to place a set of 3 steps next to your bed than to move all of your furniture to place a long ramp. Remember, though, your first thought should be of your dog’s comfort. If he needs that ramp, then it’s time to do a little home redecorating!
Senior Dog Crates
Here’s a bit of good news- you don’t necessarily have to go out and get a whole new crate for your senior dog. As long as it’s already a safe crate, you just need to make some adjustments. How do you know if it’s safe? Start by running your hands over every surface to feel for sharp edges, chipped paint, or other hazards. FYI, you should do this anytime you get a new crate, whether it’s for a puppy or a senior dog.
Once you know that your current crate is fine to keep, it’s time to make it senior-dog-friendly. You may want to start by relocating it to a room closer to your common space. For example, if the crate is in your bedroom and you spend almost all of your time in your living room, move it. That way, you’ll be within ear and eyeshot of your dog in case he needs help. On the other hand, if you have noisy kids and your dog needs a little peace, you may want to move it out of your common room.
Consider adding a crate pad with a little extra support, too. Several memory foam dog beds are designed to fit into crates. Finish off his new den with a cover that you can open and close, depending on whether he needs more privacy or more attention.
Last note on crates, if your dog isn’t crate-trained and is doing just fine without one, there’s no need to run out and get one now. While you can crate train an older dog, you don’t necessarily have to do so. Many older dogs get along just fine without one.
Supplements are a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are so many great options for older dogs-from glucosamine for joints to CBD oil for pain to Omega fatty acids for healthier fur. One the other hand, supplements can do just as much harm as good, especially if you don’t run them past your vet first. So, before you even think of buying the latest and greatest dog health supplement, make an appointment for a checkup.
While you’re there, ask your vet if there are any supplements that will interact with medications that your dog is currently taking. Then, talk about how they’ll affect any current medical conditions. For example, some supplements can actually cause major kidney problems in dogs with diabetes. Others can affect their liver.
Bottom line never think that just because something is natural, it’s safe to give your dog. Even in humans, too much of certain vitamins can be fatal, and many herbs interact with medications.
What about dog diapers?
While dog diapers usually top the list of senior pet gear, they really aren’t something to take lightly. Consider this, those diapers trap your dog’s waste against his body. If he has skin conditions (just like us, our dogs suffer from thinner skin as they age), that could lead to massive sores and other problems.
If you decide to use them, though, wait until after you’ve seen your vet. Urinary incontinence is often caused by a UTI, which can be fatal if not properly treated. Thankfully, UTIs are also fairly easy for vets to cure, so you may not even need those diapers.
For all other senior dog gear, talk to your vet
While these five items are far from the only types of senior dog pet gear, your best bet is to talk to your vet before buying anything else. That’s especially true for dog wheelchairs, as they need to be properly fitting to avoid causing serious damage to your dog’s spine.
It also goes without saying that you should never, ever, ever give your dog any medication without talking to your vet first. While many of you are saying, “I’d never dog that,” I know at least one is thinking, “Well, if I know my dog has a UTI again, why can’t I just give him the meds left over from the last time?” First, if those meds are antibiotics, you shouldn’t have any leftovers. Second, just because your dog’s urinary incontinence was caused by a UTI last time doesn’t mean it is this time.
Long lecture short, your vet is your dog’s second best friend (after you, of course). Don’t cut him out of the loop. He’ll help you decide which senior dog pet gear your pal needs the most and help you spend many more years as possible together before it’s time to say goodbye.
Choosing the right senior gear makes a huge difference in your dog’s quality of life, so take your time and really research every purchase. You’ll be happy that you did!