Let’s face it, we’re all getting older whether we like it or not.
Unfortunately, the aging process is even quicker for your pup.
Larger breeds of dogs tend to have a shorter life span than smaller breeds do, so larger dogs can be considered seniors anywhere from eight to ten years, where a smaller dog may not be considered one until they’re 10 or 11. It all depends on the dog and their genetics, nutrition, environment, etc., Nonetheless, our furry friends aging is something we have no control over, and it’s important to know how to properly care for them as they start relying on their owners differently than before.
Senior dogs will begin to slow down, so they may not be able to walk as far, play as hard, or want to stay awake as long as they used to. They may have trouble getting up and down stairs, in and out of the car, or even finding a comfortable position to sleep in. Because they may become less active and essentially adopt the couch potato name, obesity in senior dogs can become a very real issue. Other dogs may develop health issues such as kidney or heart disease, which can cause significant weight loss, instead.
Things you can do to help, include scheduling more regular visits to the veterinarian; making sure to feed your dog a high quality diet; making sure your dog keeps an ideal body weight, even if it means feeding more than you’re used to; giving appropriate supplements as needed; and making sure they still get some exercise here and there.
As a dog gets older, it may need more frequent check-ups, especially if they’re not in the greatest health condition. Going to see the veterinarian every six months instead of every year may make a huge difference.
Even if you’ve fed your dog the same diet all its life, you may need to be prepared to change it so that it best fits your dog’s needs now that they’re older. You don’t want the dog to get overweight, but you also don’t want it to lose too much weight, and since they aren’t going to be acting the same as before, in terms of being active and feeling healthy, they may need a change in diet, as well as more supplements than before. Glucosamine and chondroitin are beneficial and highly recommended for senior dogs and can be easily supplemented. If a senior dog specifically has heart or kidney disease, it is important to put them on a special, regulated diet to help control calcium and electrolyte levels in their bodies –this is often done with lower sodium diets. Your veterinarian will be able to help you choose the best food for each differing condition.
Taking care of your dog’s dental hygiene is super important as well. If you can’t brush your dog’s teeth, see if they’ll chew on a dental treat, as good dental health promotes good overall health.
Although senior dogs aren’t as active, it’s important to make them move around when they can. Start slow and gradually increase the intensity –if your dog is still pretty mobile, try to take it around the block. If it doesn’t walk very well, try taking it just down the street for a brief walk to get their legs moving.
Special accommodation may be necessary too, such as ramps to help a dog get into the car or onto the bed/couch, or adding rugs around the house if their feet don’t have good traction on certain flooring. You may need to replace their traditional dog bed with an orthopedic one so that there is less stress on their joints and back.
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pet store if you have questions on this or any pet related topic.