An aging dog’s body is less efficient in preserving its own body heat and therefore more likely to suffer from hypothermia and frostbite, which is why keeping your senior dog warm is crucial. There are many reasons a senior dog has greater difficulty maintaining proper body temperature, putting aside any illness that could be the potential cause, the changes that occur in their bodies as they age are the main contributing factors. These changes include, but are not limited to:
- Decrease in circulation as blood vessel walls lose elasticity
- Thinning of the fat layer under their skin
- Slower metabolic response to the cold
- Decreased activity
As these changes take place it is important that we help our senior companions keep a healthy body temperature, here are a few helpful tips:
- Don’t allow your senior to sit outside in the cold for prolonged periods of time
- Decrease the intensity but increase the frequency of their exercise routine, make sure to keep them moving to improve circulation and maintain mobility
- Invest in a dog sweater or jacket, there is a variety of winter gear to choose from
- Provide them with a soft and warm bed to curl up in and sleep. One of my favourite choices for seniors are self heating beds, which reflect the dog’s body heat and as such don’t require a cord (making them a safer alternative to electric blankets and beds).
- Gentle massage will improve their circulation and metabolic rate, improving their body’s ability to keep warm.
Many senior dogs struggle with an additional challenge, which is arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a painful condition that limits mobility and impedes quality of life of a senior pet. The condition is further aggravated by cold and dampness. If your dog suffers from arthritis keeping them warm is not only a preventative measure, but heat can also be a therapeutic tool.
For parents of my arthritic clients, I recommend that they use heat pads, such as this one, to put on the afflicted areas. Heat releases muscle tension, decreases the sensation of pain, eases joint stiffness and improves mobility.
Keeping your senior dog warm will go a long way in improving their quality of life and easing aches and pains that are part and parcel of an aging body.