As much as most of us would like to prevent or slow down aging, the truth of the matter is that we can’t, and the same goes for our dogs as well. Although in your eyes your dog will always be the little puppy you brought home years ago, the reality is that they will eventually age with time. The acceleration of their age depends on their size and breed, but the life expectancy of a dog is also connected to their lifestyle, food habits, the environment they’re in, and so on.
As much as you’d like to ignore their graying muzzle or the fact that they no longer enjoy long walks or have difficulty climbing onto things, the healthy thing to do is embrace your dog’s aging years and do your best to make sure that you’re looking after them properly and trying to keep your senior dog as healthy and happy as possible.
Tips to Look After Senior Dogs
It’s indeed true that age is just a number, and there’s no reason this motto can’t be applied to your dog, but they definitely require more attention than the younger dogs, as a result of which their requirements change with the passing years as well.
Here are some tips as to how you can take care of your senior dog:
Pay Attention to Their Diet
Alter your dog’s diet to include more fiber and less carbohydrates as they age. Since senior dogs don’t have the same energy levels or willingness to engage in playtime, they tend to put on more weight as compared to the younger dogs, as a result of which their diet needs to be changed as well. With time, food-related issues definitely occur in dogs, such as loss of appetite, experiencing difficulty while chewing, obesity, and so on. Talk to your vet and jot down the changes you can make in their diet.
Adding supplements to your dog’s diet is something you can look into as well. Supplements such as fish oil or a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin can be given to senior dogs, with the latter being especially helpful for dogs with arthritis. Overweight or obese dogs should be given specialized diets that include low carbs and more of L-carnitine or a carbohydrate blend.
Don’t Forget About Their Teeth
Dental care is not something many dog owners think about, but it becomes especially necessary among senior dogs, or else it results in dental decay and even missing teeth. Make sure to brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis and also take them for more frequent professional cleaning sessions as they age. Not every dog is a fan of having their teeth brushed, in which case you can always give them dental treats or dental toys.
Incorporate Regular Exercise
As we get older, our bodies can no longer engage in the same amount of vigorous physical activities as we once did in our younger years, and dogs are no different in this regard. With time, they will be more and more reluctant to go for longer walks or take part in other physical activities. However, incorporating regular exercise is a must for senior dogs.
Exercise helps to maintain their overall weight and also keeps their joints and muscles healthy. It’s best to start out with slow, brisk walks, after which you can eventually increase the time and speed of the given walks, and remember to do all of this while also making sure your dog’s heart rate is well-functioning and that you are not overexerting them. Watch out for heavy panting during exercise and consult a vet if their appearance or behavior is unusual during or after their session.
Visit the Vet More Often
When a dog ages, the strength of their immune system reduces, due to which they could be more prone to ailments, which is why regular checkups at the vet are of prime importance. Senior dogs must be taken to the vet once every six months because prevention is indeed better than cure.
The vet can take a closer look to see if your dog is doing well and then suggest the necessary changes accordingly. They can also recommend more examinations, blood tests, dental care, and so on. Certain dog breeds are also prone to various physical ailments in their senior years, such as diabetes, arthritis, and even hip dysplasia, which is why it’s best to have those detected at an early stage before it becomes a bigger problem.
Arrange for Special Accommodations
Remember how you puppy-proofed your home when you got your little dog for the first time? Similarly, changes need to be made around the house for your senior dog so as to make their life easier.
A dog with arthritis or joint issues will have trouble walking on hard floor or jumping on beds or other pieces of furniture, and especially so if they have vision impairment. Try getting carpets or rugs so that a dog suffering from arthritis won’t be exposed to hard surfaces. If you have stairs at home, see to it that your dog doesn’t try to climb them all the time, because it will definitely hurt them. Try your best to install ramps so that they can easily join you in car rides or even move up different floors around the house.
Make sure that their food and water bowls are accessible to them at all times and place their bed in a spot that’s easy to get to at any time of day. The resting spots of a senior dog need to be made comfortable as well. For instance, try to get them a softer bed or a bed that’s easily accessible so that they don’t have to climb or jump much to reach it. You can also look into heated beds, especially if your dog suffers from arthritis or if you live in a place that experiences cold winters.
Problems can be avoided if you just pay attention to your senior dog. Many dogs keep suffering for long because their owners don’t look too closely at something that could be causing them discomfort. Changes in behavior, appetite, food and exercise preferences, and so on should all be monitored closely so that appointments to the vet can be scheduled and the matter can be resolved quickly.