Let (Old) Sleeping Dogs Lie: The Memory Foam Dog Bed

Fleece Deep Dish Dog Bed with Memory Foam
Photo via orvis.com

“I have two older dogs and these beds are the best support you can find. And they last for years.” – Orvis customer Dyann

Anybody who has ever enjoyed the company of a Siberian Husky knows they can be a handful; at one time in my life I lived with three of them in a tiny cottage, incredibly. Three makes a pack, and I’m positive they never viewed me as the alpha (silly human). We wore out a lot of dog beds in those days. When a new dog bed came through the front door, careful inspection was always followed by jockeying for ownership. Then there was pretend predation. And if you shake your prey hard enough, you’ll kill it—even if it is a foam bed. Our dog bed covers always bore colorful canvas patches betraying the spots where sharp teeth had successfully found their mark.

Those three scallywags sometimes even slept on their dog beds. But they did not have the luxury of memory foam bedding during their twilight years, mainly because it had not yet found its way into the array of canine bedding that proliferates the marketplace now. It’s a beautiful thing, memory foam: insulating, indulgent, temperature- and pressure-sensitive polyurethane that molds to the shape of the body resting upon it. And as is the case with so many über-cool inventions, we have NASA to thank for it.

Seven is Your (Dog’s) Lucky Number
Years after the huskies were gone I lamented to a vet that my dog at the time, a 145-pound Shiloh shepherd, was already pushing the longevity limits of a giant breed at the age of seven. Yes, she agreed, scratching him indulgently under his chin: we do our best to take care of them while they’re here, but we haven’t figured out how to keep them around as long as us.

If your dog is seven or older, then you have the pleasure of keeping company with a canine senior citizen. In spite of wistfulness about my Shiloh, the truth is our companion animals are outliving their forebears because of improved overall care—as are we. And with a longer life come the complications associated with asking aged joints to continue to move and work. Veterinary experts tell us that canine osteoarthritis is the single most common health problem in older dogs. (Sound familiar?)

As in humans, the cartilage in a dog’s joints begins to thin with age, causing a narrowing of the space between the bones inside the joint; ultimately the bone itself begins to deteriorate. The plot thickens in an unpleasant way: discomfort leads to lameness, resulting in disuse and inactivity, followed by muscular atrophy. He can’t use words to tell you he hurts, but his torpor speaks volumes: your pooch is in pain.

Memory Foam to the Rescue
Along with other remedies, of course. And not surprisingly, treatment for degenerative joint disease (DJD), of which osteoarthritis is one, also looks strangely familiar. Diet is important, and your vet may prescribe supplements or medications to help address pain and inflammation. Exercise remains imperative even for an aged dog: as is true of humans, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Walking is still a good daily activity. And swimming is an ideal non-weight-bearing therapy; check in your area for a Certified Canine Rehab Practitioner (CCRP). Dogs even benefit from the same body work that feels good to us: acupuncture, massage, and heat.c

Experts agree that an aged dog’s bedding is supremely important. A healthy adult dog sleeps between twelve and fourteen hours daily, a senior even more. It’s only logical that you want to choose the best bed for him. The memory foam dog bed comes highly recommended for senior canines; a minimum thickness of three inches is suggested, four or five are better still. Memory foam also acts as an insulating barrier between your cold floor and your pup’s aching joints. And he will appreciate a bed with at least one open side for easy entry and exit.

Incontinence Versus Memory Foam: A Delicate Doggie Dilemma
As surely as dogs suffer the effects of osteoarthritis as we do, some of them also become incontinent in their old age. Hopefully Spot will only, er, spot on occasion. But here’s the memory foam rub: once it’s saturated with pee, you’ll have to chuck it and buy a new one. The best line of defense is a dog bed with a moisture-resistant cover (and by all means make sure it’s machine washable); check for mishaps and wash his bedding often to prolong the life of the memory foam.

Live Long and Prosper: You and Your Canine
He can’t make that famous sci-fi gesture without opposable thumbs; you’ll have to do it for him. He relies on you for so many things, in fact. Thankfully we humans have gotten smarter about caring for our companion animals in recent years. A soft, warm memory foam dog bed is a gift of love that he will enjoy every day of the week. And look for other dog products to help keep your senior dog mobile, at home and on the road.

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