Most senior dogs suffer from bone and joint problems or other painful conditions as they age. You can tell if your dog is one of them by watching him as he gets up, lies down, and walks. Target areas to keep an eye on are the hips, knees, and elbows. Does your dog bend his knees normally, or does he hold his leg straighter or more stiffly than usual? When he lies down or stands up does he come to his feet with relative ease , or does it take him a little longer than before? A dog with knee and elbow problems will move gingerly and carefully. He is more likely to choose not to get up readily for people he is unfamiliar with and barking his head off at people walking past your home may no longer hold interest for him. He’ll probably climb or descend the stairs with trepidation, pausing at the top or bottom to decide if he can make it.
If you notice these changes in your senior dog, he may need your help. Many dietary supplements can help with joint pain; Chondroitin and glucosamine can help joints to stay healthy, and your veterinarian can order Rimadyl or another painkiller to help him with his discomfort. A word of warning here: Medicating an older dog with a painkiller often causes them to forget that their joints ever hurt. They will run harder, jump more easily, and more often than not act like they are much younger. This can cause serious damage to their joints as well as causing them severe pain later, when their original aches are compounded by the punishing exercise they have done that day. If you choose to give your dog medicine for his aches and pains, it is your duty to limit his movement in spite of the fact that he feels fine.
Whether on pet medication or not, a senior dog with joint problems should never be permitted to jump up or down from a bed, couch or vehicle and activity should be limited. Walks and recreation are fine, but pay close attention to your dog’s comfort level. If he loved five-mile runs in his prime, he will probably still want to run them now, but a responsible owner will know he can’t. Instead, make your walks slower-paced and shorter. Let him do some serious sniffing and peeing on trees , and go home when he starts to show signs that he is running out of steam, such as lagging behind or wanting to sit down.