Aging well isn’t just a human problem. With proper care and attention, many older pets can stay vigorous and energetic, aging gracefully well into their senior years.
Regular adjustments to key lifestyle factors, like diet, nutrition, activity and exercise levels can make a big difference to your pet’s health and wellness throughout the golden years. By keeping your dog healthy and properly addressing age-related health problems as they arise, you boost your dog’s psychological well being too, avoiding depression that often comes with poorly managed health problems.
Since dogs are individuals with their own unique challenges, histories and genetics, no wellness plan is the same. Discuss alternative therapies with your vet to craft a wellness plan that meets your dog’s specific needs in the safest, most effective way possible.
The first step is to observe your dog and notice changes that may signal a need for changes to promote wellness. Observe your dog and ask yourself these questions:
- Have you noticed a slowing of movement?
- Does it seem harder for your dog to get up after sleeping?
- Are stairs or steps a challenge?
- Is my dog less interested in playtime?
- Does my dog run less, or at all?
- Are “doggie accidents” starting to happen around the home?
- Does your dog have a problem sitting? Or getting up to stand?
Pain is a big problem for older dogs, but the good news is that there are excellent treatments to deal with both acute and chronic pain in aging canines. Observe your dog and try to identify the following behaviors. They are non-verbal cues that may indicate your dog experiences pain, and could benefit one or more pain treatments:
- No longer wagging tail
- Bending one leg while trying standing on all fours
- One paw being smaller in size, usually noticeable when standing
- Holding their head in an unnatural position
- Uneven hip levels
- A flinching reaction when certain spots on his or her spine are gently pressed
- Not eating all of their food until night time
There are several non-invasive, alternative therapies, including acupuncture, massage and chiropractic, ultrasound, and Laser therapy, among others. Laser therapy is particularly beneficial to aging dogs that may have difficulty tolerating surgery or drugs. Let’s take a look at how these therapies can help your dog:
Acupuncture can reduce pain and inflammation, increase circulation and stimulate the body’s own immune system to promote natural healing. Its immune-boosting properties can also help to prevent future disease states in currently healthy pets, so it’s an excellent preventative measure.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles into acupoints at key locations on the body. Acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release neurotransmitters that reduce pain, and triggers the release of B endorphins, which further the analgesic effect.
The method derives from the renowned Chinese System of Medicine, dating back well over 2,000 years. Practiced throughout Asia for centuries, acupuncture has been increasingly researched and applied in medical and veterinary venues since the mid 20th century.
Acupuncture can be used to treat musculoskeletal problems including intervertebral disc disease, arthritis, hip dysplasia, and neuropathies, along with other non-skeletal conditions such as respiratory difficulties, nervous disorders, and skin issues.
Massage and Physical Manipulation Therapies
Massage and physical manipulation therapy are complementary treatments that go great together. Massage focuses on the manual manipulation of the body’s soft tissues, especially muscle, while chiropractic focuses on the manual manipulation of the body’s joints, particularly vertebrae, to correct misalignments, known as subluxations, that can affect health and wellness.
Massage therapy for dogs is associated with a number of health benefits, including improved lymphatic drainage and circulation, relief of muscle pain and spasms, relief from chronic pain, reduction in swelling and scarring, increasing range of motion, and an overall increasing sense of well-being.
In physical manipulation therapy for dogs, the veterinarian makes small physical adjustments to the spinal column and other joints to achieve optimal joint alignment. This reduces pain and increases range of motion, and often helps to improve a number of other health conditions. Since the nerves emerging from the vertebrae either influence or directly regulate organs throughout the body, even small misalignments of the spine’s vertebrae, can increase pressure on these nerves and affect their function negatively. The corrections that physical manipulation therapy makes help to restore nerve function, improving the health of organs throughout the body. Though musculoskeletal problems are at the top of the list, physical manipulation adjustments can improve general organ health, leading to a healthier cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.
Ultrasound therapy is one of many drug-free therapies that works particularly well with dogs, helping pets with injured tendons and ligaments. It’s also an excellent pain therapy for arthritis, and reduces scar tissue. In fact, ultrasound works particularly well with dogs.
During an ultrasound treatment high-energy sound waves directly to the injured areas, with a probe. The damaged tissues absorb the sound energy, and then radiate heat in return. This serves as a form of intensive heat therapy for the affected tissues, stimulating the formation of collagen fibers, accelerating the growth process of tendons, and long-term tendon strength.
Here are some common health problems in pets that ultrasound therapy can treat:
- Tendon injuries
- Ligament injuries
- Muscular back pain
- Wound healing
- Excess scar tissue
- Muscle pain
- Muscle spasms
Laser therapy is an excellent option for older dogs at greater risk from more invasive treatments, like surgery and medication, and it works well with other alternative therapies. Laser therapy uses the regenerative properties of lasers for instant pain relief, and to jump-start the body’s natural healing processes. It’s a safe, effective, non-invasive treatment, with virtually no side effects.
High energy Laser light accelerates numerous biochemical pathways in living cells, leading to rapid cellular growth, increased blood flow, enhanced nutrient distribution, and reduced inflammation throughout injured tissues. Basically, laser light accelerates the body’s innate healing mechanisms, promoting the repair and strengthening of injured tissues without risking the side effects that often come with surgery and drug therapies.
Dr. Babette Gladstein
Babette Gladstein, DMV, makes house calls and offers non-surgical and alternative solutions for all animals, but specializes in geriatric dogs. For a complimentary manual on how to stretch your dog, visit www.drbabette.com and sign up for her newsletter.