How to Support Older Dog's Weakening Legs

An older dog needs more time, attention and care than a younger dog
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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.

Nutrition

Step 1

Dog food
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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.

Step 2

Dog eating out of bowl
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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.

Step 3

Dog supplements
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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

Step 1

Dog running in park
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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.

Step 2

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

Step 3

Man letting dog rest on walk
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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.

Step 4

Dog drinking water on walk
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Provide plenty of cool, clean water before and after exercise to prevent dehydration.

Step 5

Dog on slow walk
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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

Step 1

Dog sleeping on wood floor
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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.

Step 2

Canine slippers
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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.

Step 3

Dog wearing type of walking assist
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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.

Step 4

Woman holding dog in arms
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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.

Step 5

Vet evaluating dogs joints and hips
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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.

Step 6

Dog on couch
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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.

Things You'll Need

  • High-quality dog food

  • Glucosamine supplement

  • Canine slipper socks

  • AST support suit

  • Dog sling

  • Rear harness

  • Pet ramp

Tip

Consult with your veterinarian before beginning an exercise regimen. If your dog has hip dysplasia, which is a loose and instable hip joint that moves abnormally and can cause severe pain and lameness, physical activity is limited. Swimming and walking are generally the recommended forms of exercise. Request a thorough physical examination, including blood tests to determine the best treatment plan for your dog. Discuss your dog’s diet, nutritional supplements and exercise routine before making changes. Avoid exercising your dog on hot, cold or wet days.

Warning

Observe your dog for signs and symptoms that may indicate a health serious problem, such as a loss of appetite, an increase of appetite without weight gain, sudden loss of weight, vomiting, diarrhea, increasing thirst and urination with no connection with activity, coughing, excessive panting, difficulty moving or standing up from lying down and uncharacteristic behavior changes. Prompt care is vital to preventing further deterioration, as well as treating the underlying cause. Assess your dog’s abilities to determine which type of, and how much, exercise is optimal. Encourage an increase in activity when your dog is ready. A premature progression in exercise may be harmful to your older dog and cause damage to its weak joints.

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