While it’s easy to think that dogs don’t get old or suffer from the same old age issues as humans; it’s paramount that you know how to care for a senior pet. Things like low energy levels, a poor immune system, and deteriorating bone health can bring a lot of challenges for your dog.
Here are some common changes you might notice as your pooch enters seniorhood –
- Frequent urination
- More drinking (often indicative of underlying liver/kidney disease and/or diabetes)
- Reduced appetite
- Poor nutrition
- Bad breath
- Lumps and bumps
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in movement
- Oral health problems
You may even notice many senile moments like trouble recognizing family members, getting lost around the house, and a struggle to walk. If the condition worsens, it’s best to talk with your vet.
With that said, by creating the right kind of arrangement in the house and with the right support system you can ensure a comfortable and healthy living even during your pet’s senior years.
Dogs tend to experience a similar set of issues that humans do. So, in this post, we talk about some effective and helpful tips on how you can care for an aging dog.
Here they are…
How to Take Care of a Senior Dog?
Follow an Age-appropriate/healthy Diet
A healthy and balanced diet is crucial at every age. But, you need to be more particular when you are dealing with a senior dog.
Often older dogs run a risk of becoming obese due to lower levels of energy and a decline n physical activity. That’s why it’s important to change up the diet accordingly to avoid weight gain and obesity.
Strike for foods that are fewer calories but at the same time nutritious. You might want to look for senior-friendly dog foods in the market to meet their health needs.
Add in Supplements Recommended by the Vet
Sometimes a healthy diet alone is unable to provide adequate levels of nutrition. In that case, it’s good to talk to your vet about supplements like fish oil which is good for hair, skin, bones, and joints, and/or glucosamine. You could even go for probiotics to help with digestion.
Regular consumption of supplements can make a ton of positive differences in your pet’s health. Many supplements, you can just add them to the meals.
Ensure Physical Comfort
Comfort is a big part of caring for a senior dog. Needless to say, older dogs need to rest more. Provide them with soft comfortable bedding in a quiet corner where no one would disturb them. Look out for any draughts. If you see any major changes in their bowel/toilet habits like incontinence or an increased frequency to excavate, talk to your vet.
Make sure that everything is readily and easily accessible to the dog. They shouldn’t have to walk too far for food, bedding, water, or toys. If you have a slippery surface in the home, put down a carpet or a rug to offer some grip.
Keep up With Changing Needs
With old age, the amount of mental and physical stimulation may decline. So, it’s good to engage them with games, puzzle feeders, and toys to provide them with necessary stimulation as well as entertainment.
Also, during winters, they may feel colder. Aim for warm and cozy bedding along with a quality jacket so they don’t catch a cold.
Try to spend some quality time with your furry friend. A grooming session is a good way to do that. Look for any aches, pains, bumps, or lump formation which can often be indicative of cancer. Sometimes older dogs can become stiff and may develop trouble going upstairs.
Speak with your vet about necessary treatments.
Vaccination & Parasite Protection
Ticks, fleas, and worms are something that can attack a dog regardless of its age. Therefore, you will need to provide ongoing support against these common pet conditions. To that end, you would need to regularly administer required vaccinations. If necessary, seek additional treatments as well.
The one thing different about vaccinating an older dog is the frequency. You don’t need to vaccinate them every year. Once every 3 years is enough. But, it’s always good to consult a vet to know what’s best for your dog based on his condition.
Ensure Regular Physical Activity
Just like humans, dogs also need adequate levels of physical activity and exercise to keep a multitude of diseases including obesity at bay.
But, before that, it’s good to talk with your vet. He will recommend an ideal exercise regime based on your pet’s health situation and any present prevailing illnesses.
You might have to be patient. Aim for light jogs and walks in the park. It will maintain their stamina. Avoid asking them to run if they’re too weak. Many senior living centers that allow dogs encourage regular physical activity for both the owner and the pet as it benefits everyone.
Add in Regular Grooming Sessions
With age, most dogs start to lose that shine and luster in their hair. The once soft and sparkly coat can become brittle and dull-looking. They may even be prone to frequent hair fall. Many senior dogs suffer from skin irritation like dryness and flakiness. Failure to care for it could worsen the condition.
For senior dogs, it’s paramount that you increase the frequency of grooming. Regular brushing will avoid any tangles or mats forming in the hair. It will also minimize shedding. Most vets recommend using natural products and shampoos to avoid skin irritation. A quality shampoo will nourish the coat.
Try Using a Support Sling
Many senior dogs develop osteoporosis. Due to poor bone health, they can develop mobility issues. For example, they may have trouble getting out of bed or going up and down the stairs. In that case, invest in a good dog harness. A sling, for example, could help you get your friend on its feet.
Many harnesses are designed with a handle on the back to provide added assistance. It will make walking, climbing, bathroom visits, and getting in and out of the car a lot easier.
Do not Neglect Oral Health
It is easy to neglect oral health in the middle of everything else. But, with advancing age, dogs become prone to issues like cracked teeth and gum disease that can often be rather painful. Such conditions need immediate vet attention.
By ensuring healthy brushing habits early on, you can keep those issues at bay. Start by using dog-friendly toothpaste and a finger brush. Make circular, gentle movements. Place your fingers at a 45-degree angle to scrub the gum line. Visit your vet if you notice any swelling, bleeding, resistance, or signs of pain.
Make Special Updates in The House
Slippery tiles and smooth surfaces can make movement difficult. We already discussed going for carpeting around the house so that it’s easier for the dog to move around the house. Other than that, you could also get non-slip soles or rubber socks to create even more traction.
If possible, try to get a ramp to encourage mobility up and down the house. Ramps are great for dogs to get in and out of cars and even on the furniture.
You might want to rework the water and foot setup to make extra room for comfort and accessibility. Put the food and water bowls on an elevated surface so it doesn’t strain the neck and head when it’s feeding time.
Go For Annual/Semi-Annual Vet Checkups
Other than emergency visits, you should also plan regular semi-annual checkups with a veterinarian. Many of the conditions can go unnoticed if you don’t seek medication consultation. With age, as the body and the immune system becomes weaker, a number of diseases can ail your dog.
Regular checkups can help you spot any developing disease at an early stage. It gives you a chance to get the necessary treatment at the right time before the condition becomes serious.
Reduce their Stress Levels
Aging can be a difficult process for both the dog and the family members. It can be difficult to see your dog in sometimes painful conditions. Therefore, try to provide your furry friend with as much love and care as possible. Cherish every moment and collect as many beautiful memories as you can.
Dogs thrive on human affection. It’s like a powerful drug that can alleviate anxiety and stress which are more common in senior dogs. You will always appreciate the time you spent with your pup.
Caring for a dog can be sometimes difficult but it’s also highly rewarding. The love and attention that a pooch gives are incomparable to anything else in the world. So, make sure to devote plenty of time and energy looking after your furry friend.
Be empathetic towards your pet and always be on the lookout for any signs of discomfort. Remember, a dog cannot complain or tell you when they are in pain. So, it’s your job to be on the watch.