Just like humans, dog’s age as well. However, looking after an old dog can become hard for the guardian. In this article, I will be discussing how to take care of a senior dog, how to make life easy for the dog as well as for the guardian.
Dogs who are in their advanced years most often struggle from incontinence and dementia. Unfortunately, this is also the time when the guardian has to navigate through dog care as well as the end of life decisions for the dog.
Old age in dogs should not be considered as a disease. It is just another stage of life. Most often, senior dogs don’t get adopted because the guardians feel that they will have less time to spend with pooch and they will have to care more for the dog. However, what they don’t realize is that they can give the world to the pooch in those few years.
How To take care of a senior dog: tips and tricks
Sensitivity to temperature:
Senior dogs are just like old people. Older dogs are more sensitive towards extreme temperature due to the changes occurring in their metabolism. Senior dogs are also more prone to feeling uncomfortable in extreme temperatures just as old people. This is because, just like humans, dogs also lose their ability to thermoregulate. Therefore, the guardian has to decide whether they want to opt for blankets or clothes for the dog. Clothes can be a great option. It will allow your dog to move freely in the house, whereas a blanket would restrict the dog at one place.
The same factors should be taken in consideration when it is too hot outside. The dog should not be left out or tied up if if it is a hot day. Furthermore, the heat can make the dogs dehydrate. Senior dogs have less capability to cope with the changes in temperature and leaving them outside is pretty much like setting a recipe for disaster.
Less or moderate levels of exercise
When dogs reach senior stages, their heart and lung functions also start to deteriorate. Their metabolism slows down. They suffer from pain in their joints. They may be slow to get up, may not show much inclination towards playing fetch or want to just lay around and relax. You have to keep in mind that your dog might be hurting. Therefore, restrict playtime to indulging in light games involving a moderate level of exercise.
The most important tip in how to take care of a senior dog is to not involve your dog in any kind of strenuous exercise. You have to remember that your dog is not the same young pup anymore as he or she used to be a few years back. A light exercise to keep the lubrication in the joints is more than enough when your dog is in the senior years of life.
Not engaging in any kind of exercise is also bad. Regular exercise helps the dog maintain the weight as well and has a beneficial impact on their overall health. If you are worried about which exercise your dog should engage in, have a discussion with your vet about the same. Your vet can give you a recommended exercise program which will abide by the limitations and health of your dog.
If your dog is recovering from any kind of disease or surgery, it is best to start slow. Be very patient, slowly start the exercise and build upon your dog’s stamina. Involve your dog in regular walks and light dogs jogs If he or she is comfortable with the same. As your dog ages further, the energy levels will decrease. Therefore, if the pup was able to run for a very long duration earlier, it will eventually reduce.
Appropriate diet is important for dogs in all stages of their lives. However, this is especially important when your dog is a puppy and during the advanced years of his or her life. Both during the puppyhood stages as well as during the senior years, the appropriate diet is very important.
For the puppy stages, there are special diets and commercial food which are available for dogs. However, there is no specific or a legal requirement for what constitutes food for senior dogs. Therefore, to make sure that your dog is getting the correct kind of diet, consult with your veterinarian before you introduce your dog to any specific commercial food. Choose a diet for your dog which contains less calories, is low in fat but will complement the nutritional needs.
If your dog is overweight, you may want to switch to a diet which would help bring the weight under control. Overweight dogs have more chances of developing hip dysplasia. The weight of the dog causes more stress to the already weak joints which makes the dog prone to suffering from a heart disease.
Introduce supplements to the dog diet
Supplements are important not only when your dog is in his or her senior years, they are important at all stages of a dogs life. Along with maintaining a proper nutritious diet for your dog, you should have a discussion with your vet regarding introduction of supplements like fish oil, glucosamine probiotics. Supplements like fish oils are great for the skin, as well as joints and bones. Glucosamine are excellent supplements to keep the joints healthy and to prevent arthritis in dogs. Probiotics are great for the dogs digestive health and metabolism. Hence have a . discussion with your vet about what kind of supplements you should start to give your dog. These supplements can have a huge impact on your dogs health and can help him lead a longer and healthier life.
Engage in brain games
I have already discussed about giving your dog a moderate level of exercise every day. However, you can add in some brain games which will help keep your dog’s mind stimulated like hide and seek, scavenger hunts as well as puzzle toys. These mind workout games are great when it comes to keeping the dog’s cognitive function healthy and prevent dementia.
More grooming sessions
As your dog gets older, they may find it difficult to groom themselves. You can start dog grooming right at home in a few simple steps. You do not have to give your pup a bath daily or cut his or her nails on a regular basis. However you can brush your dog’s coat daily. If your dog is suffering from incontinence, you may schedule additional baths. Another motive of the grooming sessions is that they will not only allow you to keep your dog fresh and clean, it will also allow you to keep checking for any signs of lumps, bumps bruises et cetera.
More massage time
Senior dogs most often suffer from ailments like arthritis. A massage will not only keep the joints healthy, it will also generate body heat which will keep your dog warm. Massage can either be done at home or you can opt for a professional masseuse. Massage, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments keep the joints and bones healthier for longer periods.
Massage keeps the muscles soft and increases blood flow to the joints and muscles of the dog. Chiropractic treatments help to counteract the stress which arthritis places on the dog’s spine. Acupuncture functions to relieve the pain.
Just because your dog belongs to the age range of senior dogs, it does not mean that your dog should not have a social life. If your dog loves company, bringing people and other dogs over may be the best idea for the both of you. Older dogs may have less patience towards dealing with puppies. Therefore, it is better if you get the type of guests your dog feels comfortable with. If your dog loves puppies then, you should get puppy guests too.
Outings made special
You don’t have to go on an extended outing to make your dog feel special. A walk around the block, a hike at your dog’s favorite place, a car ride or even a cart ride (if your dog has difficulty walking) will make your pup feel special
Regular visits to the vet
Regular veterinary care is the most crucial point in how to take care of a senior dog. As the age of the dog increases, their immune system becomes weak. This makes senior dogs more prone to different types of illnesses and ailments.
Thus, it is of utmost importance that you take your senior dog for regular checkup once every six months. The check up duration should not be extended beyond a six-month period. Taking your dog in every six months will allow your veterinarian to figure out if anything is wrong or any disease is starting at the initial stages of the disease and nip it at the earliest. This will guarantee a longer and happier life for your dog.
Proper oral care and maintenance
This is probably one of the most neglected point of how to take care of a senior dog. Most dog guardians don’t bother with the dogs dental or oral care. Thus, it is not uncommon to see senior dogs who are lacking a few of their teeth. The oral care of dogs must start when the dog is in his or her young stages and continue throughout life. Oral care is not a choice. Just like you would brush your teeth, your kid’s teeth, your dog’s teeth also needs brushing. Dental care and hygiene is a very important part of document and must be performed regularly.
To provide proper care to your dogs teeth, make sure that you brush your dog’s teeth daily. You can also give your dog dental treats if it’s not possible for you to engage in the act of teeth brushing on a daily basis. Take your dog to the vet at least once every year for a dental checkup and to get the teeth professionally cleaned. Dogs who are not administered the proper dental care routine develop periodontitis in the older ages. If the oral care is not done properly, it can lead to gum diseases as well as diseases affecting the other organs of the dog’s body.
Proper vaccination as well as protection against parasites.
In my previous articles I have discussed the importance of deworming in puppies. However deworming should just start during a puppy stages but continue throughout the life of the dog. Dogs are outside creatures. They will engage with the outside world, they will play in the dirt and they will bring in fleas and ticks to your house. This is a natural part of the dog’s behavior. However, as the guardian it is your responsibility to keep your dog protected from fleas, ticks as well as all types of intestinal worms. Therefore regular deworming must be done. You can also consult your vet regarding flea and tick protection or check out my home remedies pertaining to fleas and tick protection in dogs.
Older dogs may suffer from arthritis or other joint and bone problems which may severely affect their mobility. Dogs may also develop cataract or glaucoma by the time they reach their advanced years and may not be able to see clearly.
Under such conditions, your dog will benefit from the availability of a soft bedding and a bed which would be easily accessible to him or her. Keep the bed on the floor at a place which your dog most often visits or loves to be in.
It is advisable to prevent climbing up and down the stairs if the dog is having mobility issues and is in the advanced years. If there is no way to avoid the stairs, you can builds or buy a doggie ramp which would make the movement of your dog that much easier. Another option is to install doggie gates to prevent your dog’s access to the stairs completely.
This might mean a change in lifestyle for you as well. You will have to move the dog’s food, water bowl as well as the bed downstairs. You will also have to place carpet or rugs in the regions where your dog spends most of his or her time. Carpet and rugs help with mobility in case of dogs suffering from arthritis. These also help dogs gain their footing as well as in easing their movements.
If your dog suffered from cataract or glaucoma and lost vision, you will have to make sure that your dog is able to navigate around the house. Remember to not change the layout of the house or move furniture around because this would impact your dog’s navigation and will cause your dog to bump into furniture or other things.
Spend more time with your dog
Age is just a number. Yes, it will be very painful to watch your dog grow old and witness all the changes that ageing brings in your dog. However the best thing that you can do as a guardian is to make more memories, have more celebrations and make the time your dog has left, a bit more happier for both you as well as him or her. Stay by your dog’s side, enjoy the little things of life with your dog and make as many memories as possible.
You can celebrate Valentine’s Day, Halloween, New Year, Christmas with your dog and make each of them extra special with more memories, more pictures taken and some more dog friendly treats for your pup.
If your dog is geriatric, he or she may get easily spooked if the guardian is not around. Therefore, send as much time as you can with your dog.
It may be hard for your dog to hear you or see you or smell you. However your dog will still feel your presence and this is very important for your dog’s mental and emotional health status. Therefore, instead of thinking about how old your dog is, spend time with your dog, give him or her treats, play with them and make memories.
Those memories will sustain you once your pup is gone. Therefore this point in how to care for a senior dog is more for the guardian than the dog.
Pay extra attention
Pay extra attention to your dog. Keep an eye out on your dog for any kind of changes in appetite, weight gain or loss, lumps, bumps, lesions or changes in behavior. Any minor change maybe an indication of a disease which can be taken care of early if identified at the right time.
Do not scold your dog for accidents.
Continence is a common problem faced by dogs in their advanced years. your dog may loose bladder control and may have more accidents in the house. It is imperative that you understand your dog’s condition and do not scold or punish your dog if an accident occurs in the house. Just clean it up and clean your dog if necessary.
End of life care
This is probably the hardest decision a dog guardian has to make. Dogs do not live as long as humans. When dogs reach senior years, they start to slow down, they develop dementia and other kind of mental illnesses. The may even stop recognizing the guardians due to the dementia. They suffer from hip, joint pain and other problems. If the problem becomes too much and too hard for the dog to bear, or if the dog develops a terminal disease like cancer, the guardians are most often forced to take an end of life care decision.
If the dog lands up with a terminal disease like cancer, the dog guardians have many things to consider like the quality of life after treatment, the cost of the treatment itself, whether the treatment will be painful, how much pain will the dog have to go through and finally how long will treatment extend the dog’s life.
If the dog reaches a stage where the treatment won’t be of much help, the veterinarian will generally inform the guardian about the same.
Suppose a dog is in need of a non-invasive procedure which wouldn’t cause the dog a lot of pain and will give extra six months to the dog. If the price is affordable, the guardians will definitely go for such a treatment. However if the dog is suffering from chronic pain and does not have a long time to live, keeping the dog alive with treatments may be doing more harm than good. This is the time when the owners must decide in favor of the dog and resort to an end of life care decision.
If it is time to let the dog go, the guardians will understand that from the dog’s behavior. If the dog is not enjoying life, not playing, not responding to the therapies, showing a complete lack of interest in social interactions as well as food, is living a lackluster life, then it is time to let the dog go.
Just like us humans, all dogs are not the same. Every dog is endowed with a different personality and they all behave and respond to situations in their own unique manner. However, ageing is the one certain factor about both dogs and humans.
Ageing is a natural process and everyone should be prepared for the same. As a dog enters the senior years, he or she will have less energy, less mobility, hearing loss, may develop glaucoma cataracts or dementia et cetera. I know all this sounds very crazy to you as a guardian who loves your dog. However, it’s not that all of these are going to happen to your dog or happen at the same time.
Your dog may live a long healthy life and may not develop any of the above-mentioned problems or may suffer from mild problems. Whatever it is, none of it will happen overnight and both you and your pup will have ample amount of time to adjust to the new circumstances.
If you are adopting an older dog, they may have some special needs which you will have to meet and you may also have to learn a few tips and tricks on how to take care of a senior dog. However, with older dogs you do not have the hassles which come when you adopt a puppy like the biting and nipping behavior, the teething problems, house training etc. In case of older dogs, the proper love, care and attention will allow the dog to maintain his or her health and lead a long happy and healthy life with you for many future years.
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Frequently asked questions
- Lots of love and care
Dogs are considered to be senior when they enter the last 25% age span of their entire life span.
Just like humans, when dogs reach senior years of their lives, their metabolism slows down, mobility reduces, they face more joint and muscle pain, heart lung function poorly, they may suffer from dementia and develop various diseases.
If your dog is gaining weight, put him or her on special weight control diet and start moderate level exercise after consultation with your veterinarian.
You can do the following to take care of your senior dog:
-Regular vet checks
-Lots of love