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Canines and humans experience many of the same aging patterns - graying hair, aches, pains and stiffness, sleeping more and slowing down. Thanks to modern technology and specifically Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), we now have scientific proof as to just how similar the canine brain is to our own.

Both humans and pups suffer cortical atrophy (brain shrinkage), but exposing your senior dog to new experiences, scents, sights, and sounds can alter the brains physiology.  

Keep reading as we discuss 4 ways you can mentally stimulate your senior dog.

Play Games 

Fire those neurons and spend quality time with your senior by exercising your senior dog’s mind.  Just as some humans do the morning crossword or Sudoku puzzle, get your dog using her nose, paws, and mind. Below are a few games you can play with your pup to exercise your senior dog’s mind:

  • Balance: Teach a new trick, such as balancing a dog biscuit on her snout until you say, “okay!”  Then she can eat it! 
  • Cognition Training: Roll out the Red Carpet!  Well, it doesn’t have to be red, but place treats inside a carper runner and roll it up.  Have your dog unroll it with her nose. Push a button or ring the bell!  You can find talking buttons at various websites or hang a bell near the door and train your pooch to ring it when she wants to go for a walk. 
  • Nose or Scent Games : Surprisingly exhausting, but without physical exertion, nose games satisfy as most dogs love a good sniff! Think of it as hide ‘n seek with treats or even pieces of cloth that have interesting scents.   
  • Puzzles: The challenge is just finding the right one as so many can be found in the marketplace these days. Since most dogs are motivated by food, the majority are designed to hide treats under sliding, flipping or other types of panels and the dog must seek them out.  You can make your own by placing a dog cookie in one hand and making your dog nudge the right one to get the reward hidden inside! 
  • Taste Test: Let your pooch sample small bits of unusual flavors -  always off the pet-safe list - but challenge her taste buds to something new. 

Adopt a Friend

Sometimes getting a canine pal can breathe life into an aging dog. The duo will keep each other company, and it just might give your older pal something to do by mentoring a younger pup.  

The newcomer does NOT need to be a puppy! Know your dog. Children of any species can be trying to an elder’s patience, so maybe just a few years difference. Regardless, supervise and make sure your senior has a place to get away for a little quiet from time to time. 

Move it or Lose it

Exercise helps well-oxygenated blood flow to tissues and removes toxins from the body.

Activity keeps nutrients like glucose at optimum levels in the brain so that it can function properly. As in any training or exercise program, pay attention to your dog and note if he or she is enjoying it.  Break the activity into small achievable steps and always end on a positive note.     

  • Do not let your senior dog exercise for long periods of time or under hot or humid conditions. Most dogs wish to please their owner and will risk their own health to do so.
  • Do not force your senior to exercise. If he looks tired or unwilling, call a time-out. Limping, stiffness, lameness, tenderness in limbs and spinal areas are all reason to seek veterinary advice.
  • Don’t over-treat during training as older dogs add weight more quickly and lose pounds more slowly due to changes in their metabolism.  

Walk your normal walk in reverse or choose a totally different path.  As you stroll, stop and take your senior through his “sit,” “stay” and “come,” but also toss in something he never learned before. Be patient and keep it fun. If your best pal is having a little trouble keeping up, get him a wagon or stroller, so that he can still sniff and see the sights by your side.  Check out more tips for keeping your older dog in shape.

Consider Supplements  

Talk to your veterinarian about supplements that may improve cognitive function as well as protect your dogs brain.

Vitamins E and C play a big role in protecting both the brain and nervous system. In combination with sufficient exercise, they have been shown to slow the impacts of aging. Whatever you and your older fella or lady do together, do it together, and remember that variety is the spice of life. 

By offering new and different challenges, you just may ward off cognitive decline, for you and your senior pet!

Consider Investing in Dog Insurance  

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Our dog insurance policies can provide the coverage and care your furry family member deserves.  Get your free quote today. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.