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With the passing of years with your dog, there will come a time when you start to notice your dog is aging. We all dread the day when our pup will grow old and tired, but with proper wellness care and special attention to your aging dog’s needs, you can keep her healthier and happier in her senior years. Jamie Klinger-Krebs from Fetch Magazine offers some advice and tips for living with a senior dog.
Tips for Living with a Senior Dog
Though there is no real equation to measure the aging process in dogs, most dogs reach “old age” at about seven years, says Jill Degrave, education director for the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee. Small dogs tend to live longer lives than larger dogs, while larger breed dogs, such as Newfoundlands, have an average life span of six-to-eight years. As our dogs grow older they become more prone to ailments and possible disease. They will also slowly begin to lose senses such as vision and hearing.
“Older dogs are at risk for kidney problems, congestive heart failure, arthritis and cancer,” adds Degrave. “Periodontal disease affects about 95 percent of geriatric dogs, so tooth brushing is important to help reduce the risk of teeth/gum problems.”
To keep an aging dog happy and healthy, it’s important to follow the recommendations of your veterinarian when it comes to diet and exercise. According to the American Kennel Club, an aging dog does not require as much food to maintain her weight. Veterinarians may recommend converting to a senior diet, which contains easily digestible nutrients and also prevent obesity and gastrointestinal upsets by limiting fats. Older dogs are also prone to dehydration, so easy access to water is also important.
“Diet often depends on the dog,” says Sue Brahm a veterinary technician at Lakeside Animal Hospital in Milwaukee. “Some elderly dogs don’t eat well, while others eat just fine, so diet becomes important because you don’t want them to gain or lose too much weight. There are a lot of new diets on the market targeted for elderly dogs, but you really want to talk to your veterinarian first to decide what’s best for your dog.”
Routine, annual health check-ups are always recommended at any age, but they are also important for elderly dogs, says Degrave. Biannual visits are suggested as your dog becomes geriatric.
“If you think of how quickly the lifespan of a dog can go, if they’re only brought in every other year or whenever they’re due for a rabies shot – that’s a huge span of their life,” adds Brahm. “Things can happen much quicker in an older dog in terms of kidney disease, cancer, etc., so if we catch things sooner, the easier it could be to do something before it gets too far.”
Exercise will also help keep your aging dog happy and healthy, but Brahm warns that exercise should be limited to what your dog can tolerate. “Sometimes joint or arthritis issues may prevent them from exercising as much as they want too, so keeping a close eye on what they can tolerate is important.”
If you notice a bluish haze in the eyes of your aging dog, this generally indicates the onset of vision problems, adds Degrave. Vision problems are common in older dogs and the American Kennel Club recommends a consistent environment will help your dog adjust. Not rearranging the furniture or moving things to a new place will lessen the risk of confusion or stress, which may worsen the condition.
Keeping your elderly dog comfortable will also help keep her happy. Making sure she has a soft bed in a warm place and limiting time outdoors in extreme temperatures is important. The American Kennel Club also suggests routine grooming in order to keep the coat and skin from becoming dry; this will also help you notice any lumps or abnormalities that should be checked-out immediately.
As your pet ages, be sure to give her the love and care she deserves and the quiet time she needs. Though she may still need lots of love and attention, she may not always want it, so be attentive to her limitations.
“Animals are really good at hiding pain so it’s really important to recognize your dog’s personality as they grow older so you can spot problems early, good health can go a really long way,” says Brahm.
Recommended care for an older dog:
- Regular mild to moderate exercise
- Annual to biannual medical check-ups to detect problems early
- Reduce exposure to extreme weather (a sweater may be necessary in very cold temps)
- Make the surroundings familiar and secure for the dog who has lost vision and hearing
- Put carpet runners over slippery floors and steps to help with footing
- Soft bedding may make an arthritic dog more comfortable
- Elevate food and water bowls if necessary
- Keep the dog mentally stimulated
- Feed a senior diet and watch weight
As you can see from these tips for living with a senior dog, by giving her extra love and making special adjustments to meet her needs, you can help make your older pup’s years healthier and happier. You can read the full text by clicking here. Do you love a senior dog? Tell us what you do to make the senior years as comfortable as possible. Use the comment box below.
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