Getting old is just a part of life, and it goes the same for pets. As a dog’s age increases, so does the possibility of all sorts of different conditions developing, which makes life more difficult for the dog. Because of this, senior dogs need to be cared for in a different way than younger dogs do in many ways.
The Arthritis Factor
As your precious dog gets older, he or she may develop arthritis, which may cause him or her to slow down a bit. This may mean that your dog might tire out sooner when walking or playing. He also might find it difficult to get comfortable when it is time to lay down and take a nap. He might be hesitant to venture up and down the staircase, get into your car, or jump up onto your bed.
For situations like these, you can provide your senior dog with a little extra TLC. There are special orthopedic beds that are designed to give your dog additional support and comfort for their aching joints. To help your arthritic dog get up onto your bed or into the car, you can offer a ramp to make his life easier. Another thing you can do to help is to place rugs or carpets over your hard-surface floors to help your arthritic dog to walk more comfortably and confidently.
Your Senior Dog’s Diet
Senior dogs need much less calories than their younger counterparts. They need a high-quality diet, so make it a habit to read the label. Some senior dogs are overweight, and some are underweight so dog food is definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation. Asking your veterinarian for a specific recommendation is the best way to be confident about what you are feeding your dog.
Is your senior dog overweight? This is something you should try your best to remedy. Dogs that are overweight have higher incidences of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and skin diseases. In addition to this, keeping excess weight off will help your dog to maintain mobility for as long as possible.
It may be a good idea to fortify your senior dog’s diet with fatty acids that include DHA, EPA, glucosamine and chondroitin. These nutrients are particularly useful for helping dogs that have arthritis.
Keep Their Teeth Clean
Brushing your dog’s teeth is important. To do this task, you can use a long-handled brush, or even a finger brush. However, be sure to use toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs and never use people toothpaste. You should periodically get your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned by your veterinarian as well. If you are someone that honestly knows you aren’t going to brush your dog’s teeth, it would be a good idea to buy your dog some nice chew toys or dental treats to help out the situation.
Be on the lookout for signs that your dog may already have dental disease. To begin, if your dog’s breath is downright disgusting, this is an indication that it may have already set in. Another sign of dental disease is if your dog frequently paws or rubs at their mouth or face. If they avoid eating hard foods, have red swollen gums and teeth with a brownish appearance, be sure to take them to the vet to have their mouth taken care of.
Combating dental disease is important, because it can be painful for your dog, and cause it to be difficult for him to eat his meals. As a result, he may experience unwanted weight loss.
As your dog gets older, there are several different conditions which may arise. These include a loss of hearing, a deterioration in vision, decreased mobility, and mental impairment. In addition to this, specific organs can have issues, such as a heart condition or kidney disease.
Because of this, it is a good idea to schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. Prevention is key! According to the AKC, during each visit, you should ask for a body condition evaluation. As a part of this, your veterinarian may draw out what is known as a “body map.” This is a simple sketch which shows each side of the dog, along with the location of any bumps or lumps on the dog’s skin. Each time that the dog goes to the veterinarian, these lumps are monitored to see if they are changing and what needs to be done about it.
In regards to hearing and vision loss that so commonly accompanies old age, there is something that can be done to help, depending on the situation.
Your veterinarian can screen for inflammation or discharge of the ear canal, which is a treatable condition. However, if the hearing loss is simply age-related, there is no cure for that.
Dogs can get cataracts, just like people, and cataracts can be taken care of with surgery. However, if your veterinarian determines that your dog’s vision has deteriorated due to progressive retinal atrophy, or (PRA), there is no available cure for this condition.
Exercising Your Senior Dog
Whole Dog Journal recommends approaching exercise in a gradual manner, by starting with brief, low-impact walks on “smooth or flat surfaces.” You should be aware if your dog begins to limp, looks uncomfortable or like they want to rest, and be sure to allow your dog to take a break when they need to. The amount of exercise can be increased a little at a time, providing that the dog doesn’t feel bad the next day.
One activity that you may want to try with your senior dog is swimming. This is because swimming is easier on your dog’s joints than running or walking. Perhaps this is why some veterinary clinics use swimming as a form of therapy to help arthritic dogs exercise.
One of the best things you can do for your senior dog is to give him or her plenty of love and attention. One way you can do this is through canine massage therapy. Massage is useful for relieving any joint discomfort your senior dog may be experiencing, along with improving flexibility, circulation and muscle tone. Through massage therapy, you can deepen the bond you have with your longtime canine companion.