Caring for older dogs is in some ways similar to caring for puppies. Both require a higher level of supervision and attention. You may also need to use specialized tools such as a sling to help the body reach its full potential.
In this article, we’re going to offer you some great advice on how to make sure your loyal friend has a happy retirement. We’ll also discuss some common older dog health issues to watch out for.
The age at which a dog gets older depends to some extent on its breed. In general, smaller dogs like terriers and chihuahuas live the longest and do not enter the final years until they are ten or twelve. At the other end of the scale, giant breeds like Great Danes are said to be seniors by around five or six years old.
However, with proper medical treatment and care, your dog’s later years can still be happy and active.
Here are our top tips for keeping your older dog healthy.
Care for teeth
Your dog’s good dental hygiene is of vital importance throughout its life. However, this aspect of its care becomes particularly important as it ages.
By brushing your dog’s teeth regularly and having them professionally cleaned by your veterinarian, you can prevent painful dental and gum disease from occurring, which could prevent your pet from eating properly.
Older dogs often have nutritional problems, including loss of appetite, problems chewing their food, obesity, and digestive problems.
Your veterinarian will advise you on the best feeding plan for your older dog. You may need to add more fiber to your dog’s diet by choosing a high-fiber dog food to aid their digestion. You may also need to cut down on carbohydrates to keep your pet at a healthy weight. Adding fish oils and foods rich in glucosamine can also help relieve joint pain in arthritic dogs. You may need to consume a lower-calorie senior food to keep your dog’s weight in check as well.
Just like older adults, older dogs can develop pain and difficulty if they enjoy the exercise they used to enjoy. Your dog will still enjoy short walks, but you need to monitor his or her gait and breathing to make sure no problems develop.
Just like an older adult, your dog’s brain needs to stay active. Try using interactive games like food puzzles to keep your dog entertained and keep him sharp.
Typically, you should take your dog to the vet to the vet every year. This visit usually coincides with the date your dog’s vaccinations are due. Aging dogs should have routine veterinarian visits more frequently. But why?
Older dogs are more prone to age-related health problems and may also need additional dental care. Some breeds, including retrievers and German shepherds, are prone to conditions like Hip dysplasia and certain types of cancer. If you spot problems like these early enough, your veterinarian can address them before they become major problems for your dog.
When you brought your dog home as a puppy, you had to protect your home and yard from puppies. In your dog’s later years, you may need to make adjustments to your home.
For example, if your dog has arthritis and is having trouble getting into your car when you take him to the park, consider buying a special dog ramp to make his life easier. If your dog’s eyesight is deteriorating, make sure to keep their water and food in the same spot every day so your pet knows where to find them.
You may want to replace your dog’s bed with a heated bed, especially if they have stiff joints or if you live in an area where winters are cold.
Older dogs often have trouble getting up, especially after a long nap. Place your dog’s bed on a surface that your pet has good traction on to avoid accidental falls or slips that could result in injury.
Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior as changes in your pet’s behavior can be a red flag for potential health issues. For example, if your normally greedy dog begins to lose its food, it may have dental problems or a gastrointestinal issue that requires a veterinary examination.
When you see your dog every day, it can be easy to lose sight of changes in your pet’s mood, appetite, weight, and behavior. Keep a journal so that you do not lose sight of any major changes in your dog. You want to make sure that you are vigilant so that you can identify any mood swings your dog may have that make them more anxious or less social towards people.
Your older dog will most likely want to sleep more than before. Make sure your dog has a quiet place to relax and a soft, comfortable bed that is far from drafts.
Older dogs often have some level of incontinence or need to relieve themselves more often than they used to. This can create toilet problems in your home that can be stressful for your pet and you. Problems of this type should be discussed with your veterinarian as drug therapy can be helpful.
Older dogs have different nutritional needs than younger dogs. And the diet that will suit your dog will depend on its size and breed. Typically, most dogs benefit from a gradual change in diet by around the age of seven.
Keep track of how your dog is eating and discuss any changes you notice with your veterinarian, especially if your dog appears to be eating more but is losing weight.
Grooming has several advantages for the older dog. You should have them brushed regularly and use a tool like the FURminator when taking off their coats in the summer. You can also use a shampoo specially designed for sensitive skin.
- You spend a lot of time with your dog.
- You can examine your dog’s body for lumps.
- The massaging effect of the care can help promote healthy blood circulation.
As part of grooming your dog, you need to sand his nails so they don’t get too long. This is especially important for older dogs who don’t have a lot of exercises that would normally wear down their nails. Using a grinder can be easier for older dogs as they are often less scared.
General health problems
Early detection is the best way to keep a minor health problem from escalating into something more serious. Here are some of the most common health issues affecting older dogs that you need to watch out for. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, take them to your veterinarian for an exam right away.
Vision and hearing loss
As your dog ages, their hearing and eyesight may deteriorate.
Older dogs can be prone to cataracts. Cataracts are usually first seen as a clouding of your dog’s eyes which, if left untreated, can eventually lead to blindness.
Cataracts in dogs are the same as in humans. A cataract is an imperfection in the lens of the eye. Just like a camera lens, the lens of the eye focuses on the light. The lens should be crystal clear, but if a cataract develops it will affect vision.
Cataracts vary in size from a tiny point to covering the entire lens. In the early stages of its development, cataracts will not cause major vision problems for your dog, possibly just a little blurring or fog. However, once the cataract is complete, your pet’s eyesight will be poor, much like looking through sheets of thick waxed paper.
Hearing loss in dogs usually occurs as a result of the aging process. However, you can help your dog and slow the progression of hearing loss by keeping your dog’s ears clean.
Did you know that after a study of the London Royal Veterinary College, nearly 40% of dogs suffer from arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of stiffness and joint pain in older dogs. arthritis is a general term used to describe joint inflammation or degenerative joint disease (DJD). This chronic condition usually begins with impairment of the dog’s leg joints before moving on to the spine. Canine arthritis is extremely debilitating and painful to your dog if left untreated.
Large breeds like German shepherds are prone to developing arthritis especially after the age of seven.
Diet plays an essential role in treating arthritis in older dogs. Discuss with your veterinarian how nutritional supplements can improve your dog’s condition.
Just like humans, older dogs can lose their cognitive function as they age. Canine dementia causes confusion, disorientation, restlessness, and insomnia. Some dogs with dementia walk up and down endlessly and cannot sit down and sleep. Incontinence can also be a part of the condition.
These behaviors are incredibly stressful for both the dog and the owner. If you find your dog is behaving differently, speak to your veterinarian as some medications can help with this condition.
As your dog gets older, you may find that he develops some lumps and bumps. Fortunately, many of these are likely harmless lumps of fat called lipomas. However, age increases the risk of cancer in dogs. So, if you notice any strange bumps that weren’t there before, get your dog for a veterinary exam.
As dogs get older, they are more likely to develop heart problems. If you notice that your dog is having difficulty breathing, coughing, vomiting, or is no longer enjoying a long walk, it could be Heart disease and you should seek advice from your vet right away.
If your dog becomes overweight, they can develop diabetes. Obese dogs are also more likely to experience heart disease, joint pain, and some forms of cancer.
Be sure to feed your dog properly so that he does not become overweight. If in doubt about the ration your dog should be feeding, speak to your veterinarian for advice.
Many older dogs suffer from abdominal pain from time to time. However, problems like kidney or liver disease can also cause indigestion. Therefore, always have your dog examined by your vet if the abdominal discomfort persists.
Urinary incontinence in dogs can only take a few barely noticeable drops to completely empty the bladder. Urinary incontinence often occurs in older dogs because of the bladder sphincters
- become weaker than
- The dog is aging.
Urinary incontinence is often not easy to spot when it first starts. However, if your dog is always licking the area around the urethra and the skin in that area is inflamed and red, it could indicate that urine is leaking from the bladder. Incontinence often occurs while your dog is sleeping. So keep an eye on his bedding to check for any damp areas.
Although any breed and both sexes can suffer from urinary incontinence, the problem is most common in older, dexus bitches. This is because the muscles that control the bladder sphincter become weaker as the dog ages and are not as effective at controlling the urination of urine.
Incontinence can be caused by the fact that the bladder weakens as the dog ages. Older bitches can be prone to cystitis, and dementia can also play a role.
Some medications can help alleviate the loss of bladder control. So talk to your vet.
Kidney failure is a very common problem in aging dogs. Although chronic kidney failure cannot be cured, it can be controlled and treated with proper diet and medication.
Nobody lives forever. That is a painful fact that one day you will have to deal with this when your older dog reaches the end of his life. Making this final decision on your dog’s behalf is the toughest phone call you will ever have to make, but it’s also the ultimate responsibility that comes with pet ownership.
Always let your veterinarian guide you in making the final decision to end your dog’s life. Never try to unfairly prolong your beloved pet’s life to save yourself the pain of losing them. Your dog’s quality of life must always be your priority.
Although it is difficult to bear, one day your dog will grow old and it is important that you understand how to care for him in his later years.
Take your dog for more frequent veterinary exams and be aware of any potential health issues. Make adjustments to your home and garden that will make your loyal friend’s life easier.
Your older dog may not be a puppy anymore, but he has always been your best friend and he will appreciate the special care you take to keep him comfortable and happy through his golden years.