It can seem that your dog’s behaviour is changing as they get older
Have you noticed a behaviour change as your dog gets older? How many times have we heard someone say that their dog is getting grumpy in their old age?
It is also not uncommon for people to talk about how their pet develops ‘selective deafness’ and tends to ‘do as they please’; in other words, they don’t always follow a command when asked. We seem to accept and not challenge a change in the behaviour and physical ability of an older dog, simply attributing it to the ageing process. However physiotherapy intervention can make a huge difference to the older dog, improving their muscle strength and endurance, having a knock on effect of improving physical ability and function, which in turn has the overall effect of improving psychological well being and quality of life.
So why do we see these changes in the older dog?
As with ourselves, wear and tear does take its toll, and degeneration and arthritis is commonly seen in our companion animals as well. This can create discomfort and so a vicious spiral of events begins with movement, causing discomfort which in turn means our pet is reluctant to move, or will move abnormally to try and offload painful joints, and so the muscles get weaker and the bones and joints are not supported so well and so the spiral worsens!
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
Symptoms of arthritis can be very hard to spot – simply due to the insidious nature of their onset, they literally creep up on us! They can include a range of both physical and behavioural changes from reluctance to go out for walks, appearing more subdued or maybe even more aggressive on being stroked around certain parts of their body. These changes are telling us that either our pet is anticipating pain on being touched, hence aggression on petting, or it hurts to do it, hence reluctance for certain physical tasks.
Massage techniques performed by a veterinary physiotherapist can help with pain and stiffness
Are these changes just something we should accept and can do nothing about?
Absolutely not! A combination approach including sensible husbandry management, weight control and a controlled exercise program can not only halt but actually reverse the symptoms we see in older, more arthritic, dogs. This is exactly how your physiotherapist can help advise you and work with you to improve the quality of life of your older pets.
An example of a management program for the older pet can be as simple as the following:
Try and make sure they keep warm, especially during the winter. Most houses are centrally heated and not only does our pet have to cope with extreme temperature changes when leaving to go for a walk, but also this may be true when the heating goes off at night.
Physiotherapy for dogs with arthritis can help them to be more active and more comfortable
Try and avoid slippery floors, as a pet who is weaker will struggle more to get up and in doing so have already usurped a lot of energy meaning less for a good walk out. They are also more at risk of slipping and so aggravating sore arthritic joints. Physiotherapy may help your dog to feel like a puppy again!
To conclude, the grumpy old man in the basket in the corner of the room can be helped with simple but effective management regimes. Just be aware that this can unleash the naughty puppy in him again!