8 Things to Know About Your Senior Dog
Just like us, as dogs start racking-up the years, their bodies start to show the signs of aging. While most senior dogs still have that puppy-like joy about them, their joints, teeth, heart, and more are from spry. And, because so, it’s important for their owners to realize how their bodies are changing, and what they can do to better their lives.
Here are eight things to know about your senior dog, so that you can make their last years just a playful, joyful, and carefree as their puppy days.
1. They’re Joints are (Probably) Hurting
Once most dogs reach the double-digits, especially larger breeds, they’ll experience some form of joint discomfort.
Unforutanly, this is a completely natural thing to happen, as well. As dogs—and most animals, for that matter—age, the cartilage between the body’s joints begins to deteriorate, unable to regenerate lost tissue like they once could. Thankfully, joint supplements, specifically those that contain dog-safe glucosamine, have been clinically shown to help with stiff, arthritic joints. Also, “dog stretching” is another proven, completely natural way to help alleviate a senior dog’s joint pain
For an extra bit of help, consider using doggie ramps for hard-to-get-to places like beds, furniture, etc..
2. They’re Teeth Have Seen Better Days
Oral diseases are incredibly common in older dogs. And, if left unchecked, can cause a host of problems, from mouth rot to even heart failure.
To keep your canine’s, well canines, looking good and healthy, try to gently brush your dog’s teeth a few times a week with a dog-safe toothpaste. This will not only help to reduce plaque and tartar buildup in their mouths but help thwart-off any bad breath.
3. They Really are ‘Dog Tired’
With age comes lethargy—and dogs are no different in this department.
Senior dogs need far more sleep than younger, more spritely canines. As dogs start to grow old, their metabolism slows down to help make up for this lack of energy, which is why, often times, senior dogs are prone to obesity, as well.
So, a word to the wise: Let your graying fur-child sleep for as long as he or she wants to, preferably atop of cushy, supportive dog bed you’ve previously bought.
4. They’re Hearing Isn’t All That Good, Anymore
Statistically speaking, odds are that you’re loving, graying fur-best friend will become hard-of-hearing later down the road.
“Bilateral hearing” takes a sharp decline once a dog hits about ten or eleven; for larger breeds, this can happen much sooner. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent your dog’s age-related hearing decline. However, keeping their ear canals clean and practicing hand-gesture commands can make the decline easier for both of you.
5. They’re Eyesight is Blurred
As dogs begin to climb the age ladder, cataracts are one of the first age-related problems to come up.
Thankfully, however, most cataracts in dogs don’t become severe enough to illicit surgery. Generally speaking, affected dogs can still see through those cataracts, albeit not as clear as they could without them. However, it’s worth consulting with your trusted veterinarian to get an opinion.
6. They Become Forgetful
Cognitive decline in dogs is one of the most pressing (and depressing) age-related issues owners will have to reckon with.
But, contrary to popular belief, you can do things to help slow down a dog’s cognitive decline. Much like us, their brains thrive on stimulus, which helps to keep the proverbial cogs working and stopping them from slowing down. Consider, even at their age, giving them toys, talking tom for regular (and reasonable) walks, talk to them, teach them tricks, you name it.
However, it’s worth noting that even the most strict, stimulating regiment can’t thwart off all brain cognitive decline. One of the first things to “go” is a dog’s sense of direction. When you’re walking or letting your senior dog play, make sure he or she doesn’t stray too far so that they don’t get lost.
7. Their Digestive Tract is Different
There’s a reason why dog food brands create certain feed formulas that are based on a dog’s age.
As a dog gets older, their stomach becomes far more sensitive to grains, sugars, and hard-to-digest things like rawhides and bones. Also, their teeth begin to dull and dome, making it hard for them to chew and “masticate” their food properly.
Your senior dog needs to have softer, less grain dense foods in order to digest them properly. In many instances, adding water to dry food and mashing it up a bit is a good idea. Consider, too, investing in dog-safe probiotics for your senior dog; these will help give the GI tract a helping hand in breaking down essential micronutrients and macronutrients.
8. They Still Need to Socialize
Dogs, by their very nature, are social creatures—and they not only crave but need the attention of both their “people” and other dogs.
Even though your pup might not be as active as he or she once was, they’ll still appreciate an outing at the dog park. Many times, senior dogs become “couch potatoes” not because of their own doing, but because their owners believe they wouldn’t want to go out and socialize. Fun fact: This couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Isolation can cause a dog to become visually depressed and, in some cases, affect their overall health, worsening certain age-related problems. Now, this doesn’t mean you should unleash your senior dog in a playpen filled with younger dogs. It does, however, mean you should leash your dog up, allow him to sniff and interact with calm, cool dogs, and, if the situation is right, take the leash off and let him or her walk or run some energy off.
In Summary: Your Senior Dog Needs Special Care, But Shouldn’t be Coddled
By now, you can tell that senior dogs require looking at dog ownership in a completely different way. From the type of food they need to the amount of sleep they require, a litany of considerations to into giving an aging dog his or her best life.
But this doesn’t mean you need (or should) coddle them, protecting them for the world outside. They need to be social, go on walks, smell the clean, crisp air; those things are vital to their well-being.
Take these things into consideration, and you and your graying for-best-friend will enjoy the latter years of their life to the fullest.