Keeping your city dog happy and healthy into old age is easy, provided owners follow a few guidelines:
• Keep your animal’s weight down—the thinner the dog, the easier it is to handle them and the easier it will be to help lift him to his feet, if needed. Consult a veterinarian about proper weight loss methods.
• Try to eliminate stairs—both up and down are difficult on the joints. Get a ramp, if possible.
• There are many slings and harnesses available. The harness I like is the webmaster, by Ruffwear, and slings from Walkabout. These will help lift your dog and steer him on a crowded street. The Webmaster wraps around the chest so your dog may feel more secure and a bit less anxious in crowds. Also a Halti, or string muzzle that pulls the head, will help lead your dog if a harness is not yet necessary.
• Feeling good is essential, so stretch your dog every day. This increases your animal’s range of motion and will help them walk better and elongate their life. A mere 15 minutes of massage and stretching every day will raise your dog’s sense of well being and yours as well (check out the instructional video on my website, www.animalacupuncture.net).
• Make sure nails are clipped; when they are too long, dogs have a harder time staying steady on their feet.
• Hot or cold pavement conditions may necessitate booties.
• Walking closer to buildings helps your dog feel more secure. Avoid street crowds. Pick a path that is short or interesting. Many doormen love to give dogs treats and I have seen many dogs enjoy even short strolls just to get a small treat or praise. Try less crowded streets or avoid high traffic times. I always avoid Lexington Avenue because there is just too much activity. Avoid crossing streets, when possible.
• After the walk, wash paws with tepid water and baking soda if no booties or socks are used. Even in the summer, the pavement is hot and paws can get dry and cracked. You may need to use Musher’s wax to soften the paw pad and make them less likely to crack.
Babette Gladstein, DMV, makes house calls and offers non-surgical and alternative solutions for all animals, but specializes in geriatric dogs.