How to Support Older Dog's Weakening Legs

By Charmaine Jens

As a dog becomes older, it begins to show signs of age, such as longer sleeping patterns, disinterest in activities and an inability to climb stairs or jump and get up after lying down. The age in which a dog exhibits these symptoms depends on the breed and size. Small dogs typically live longer and large dogs tend to display deterioration in their legs earlier. Although the changes are normal, care for and treat your dog early to prevent unnecessary pain and avoid further deterioration. The majority of a dog's old-age symptoms, which include arthritis and hip dysplasia, are treatable. Using the proper techniques will allow you to support your dog's mobility as he ages.

Old Golden Retriever
An older dog needs more time, attention and care than a younger dog
credit: mariakbell/iStock/Getty Images

Nutrition

Supply your dog with a healthy diet using high-quality food. Cheap foods are deficient in essential vitamins, mineral and nutrients your aging dog requires.

Offer your dog two small meals a day instead of a single large one. Prevent overfeeding, since it may cause obesity and shorten your dog's life.

Use dietary supplements, such as a glucosamine and chondroitin formula, for joint health. According to the Arthritis and Glucosamine Information Center, some studies show that glucosamine may be effective in reducing inflammation in a dog's joints and may benefit dogs suffering from arthritis.

Exercise

Provide your dog with regular, daily exercise to maintain its weight. Older dogs are prone to obesity. Consistent activity will benefit your dog's circulation, digestive system, heart and lungs.

Exercise your dog before it eats and feed it approximately 30 minutes after exercise to prevent strain and stress.

Take shorter, more frequent walks instead of one long one. Warm up for five minutes using a slow, even pace and cool down near the end of your walk for approximately five minutes by gradually decreasing your pace.

Provide plenty of cool, clean water before and after exercise to prevent dehydration.

Adjust the type and duration of your dog's exercise to fit its current health. Aging dogs vary in their needs and what they can physically tolerate.

Assisted Mobility

Trim the hair on your dog's paws close to the pads. That will increase your dog's traction on slick floors and make it easier for it to get up after lying down.

Cover your dog's paws with canine slipper socks, which have non-slip bottoms. The socks come in a variety of sizes and are available at veterinary and pet stores.

Carry your dog with an animal suspension technology (AST) support suit, which is a type of harness with a handle designed for weak and disabled dogs that need help walking.

Lift your dog using a sling, which wraps around its midsection and enables you to relieve pressure as it walks. Canine slings are created for aging dogs and those with arthritis or hip dysplasia.

Raise your dog's back end using a rear harness. Rear harnesses are available as a walkabout dog rear support harnesses or a bottoms' up leash. Both harnesses allow the dog's back end to be elevated to remove pressure from the hind joints and hips.

Provide your dog a pet ramp, which allows easy access to the car, house, areas with stairs or other places which may be difficult for it to access.