Aging ain’t for the faint of heart

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Animals age much like we do, and with medical advances helping maintain their health and quality of life longer, we’re blessed with more time with these wise and wobbly elders in our homes.  Aside from the patchwork of non-slip rugs over slippery floors and other common modifications, we asked veterinarian and behaviorist Valli Parthasarathy, PhD, DVM, for some expert advice.  Co-owner of Synergy Behavior Solutions in SW Portland, Parthasarathy is president-elect of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.

“Like with people, the more you use your mind, the sharper it stays.  I think that’s true with dogs,” says Dr. Parthasarathy.  She notes that it’s easy to forget the importance of mental enrichment for our seniors.  “I started doing some training with my 15-year-old, and he loved it!”

Interactive toys, food puzzles, nose work, or any rewards-based training can help keep them sharp.

Also important is a peaceful environment, she says.  It can be distressing to struggle with incontinence, vision loss, pain, or changes in routines or abilities.  “It’s hard to know what they’re thinking, but the body signals we see are often signs of anxiety or worry.”  To help, stay calm, especially if a wobbly dog has just fallen or has had an accident on the floor.  “Be matter of fact, help them up, and let them do their thing.”