Aging dogs deal with many of the same problems as senior humans are faced with. They often develop arthritis just as people do, which slows them down a great deal. They also have significantly less energy than they did when they were younger, and they require much more sleep than they did before.
Caring for Senior Dogs
Of course, you want your cherished pet to live as long as possible and to be happy when it becomes older. Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to keep your dog fit, comfortable and happy during its senior years. Caring for senior dogs is quite different than caring for a younger pet as you will see in the passages below.
Is Your Pet a Senior?
First of all, it is essential to note that what may be considered “old” in one breed, may not be considered old in another. For example, while Pomeranians can live as long as 12 to 15 years or even longer, Saint Bernards have an average lifespan of only eight to ten years. Thus, a Pom may not enter its senior years until it is around 11 or l2.
On the other hand, a Saint Bernard may begin showing signs of aging around seven or eight. So, just how do you know whether or not your pet is a senior? The answer is to learn the signs of old age in dogs. While these signs may vary slightly from one pet to another, the most common signs of old age in dogs are as follows:
- Sleeping More Than Usual
- Slow and/or Stiff Gait
- Hesitancy to Navigate Stairs and/or Jump on Furniture
- Loss of Interest in Toys/Play
- Graying Around the Muzzle and/or Facial Area
- Decreased Appetite
- Weight Gain
- Housebreaking Accidents
- Blindness/Deafness (Partial or Complete)
- Confused Behavior
Visit Your Veterinarian Often
Adult dogs should have checkups with their vet at least once a year. However, since senior dogs typically develop more medical conditions than younger pets, they should see their veterinarians twice a year or more often. This allows the vet to catch any medical conditions before they become serious.
Alter Your Aging Dog’s Diet
As the activity level of aging dogs decline, they often begin putting on excess weight. This can become quite a problem as it may cause undo strain on the heart and joints. As such, it is best to feed senior pets a diet that contains fewer calories than what is required for growing puppies or young adults. Your senior pet will also need a healthy balance of fiber, fats and protein in its diet.
Take Your Senior Dog for a Daily Walk
Aging dogs may be tempted to spend much of their day sleeping; however, it is important that you ensure your pet gets appropriate exercise. Exercise can help your senior dog stay fit throughout its golden years and can help relieve pain from arthritic joints. While jogging and intense games of fetch may be out of the question for older pets, a daily walk around the block can help keep your older dog in good shape.
Provide Your Pet With a Warm Bed
Finally, just as with senior humans, senior dogs often have poor circulation, which can make them become chilled rather easily. To prevent your pet from getting too cold, place its bed away from doors, windows or other drafty areas. You can also line the bed with old blankets or towels. If you have a short-haired dog, you may want to consider purchasing dog sweaters or coats to help keep it warm.
For many people today, their dogs are not just pets: they are members of the family. With that said, when their beloved furry friends become old, they want to do everything they can to make them comfortable. Fortunately, caring for senior pets is easy when you make use of the tips described above.
Do’s and Don’ts of Caring for Senior Dogs
- Do Visit Your Veterinarian Often.
- Do Walk Your Aging Dog Daily.
- Do Provide Your Older Pet With a Senior Diet.
- Do Purchase Sweaters and Coats for Short-haired Senior Dogs.
- Don’t Let Your Arthritic Pet Jump.
- Don’t Place Your Aging Dog’s Bed Near Drafts.
- Don’t Let Other Pets or Children Disturb Your Senior Dog While it is Sleeping.
A condition that affects the brain of an aging dog is dog dementia, also called cognitive dysfunction in dogs. Now you know the signs of old age in dogs you can give your pooch the best possible care during its golden senior years. “Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.”