5 Tips for Owners with Senior Dogs
Caring for any dog can be stressful. With vet appointments, walks, and grooming (not to mention the house ‘grooming’ that needs to be done every 5 minutes, yep got to love the dog hair!), being a dog owner can sometimes feel very overwhelming. And this may become more apparent as your dog becomes older and may require more healthcare. Even in dogs, aging can be a difficult process and will often mean giving your dog more care and attention. Not only might your dog need more vet visits, but it could also mean switching up your usual dog routine. For example, older dogs may get tired more easily and should be given shorter walks to account for this. Although it might seem scary, our 5 top tips will ensure your dog stays happy and healthy no matter how old they are.
So, What Exactly is Old Age?
Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact number that determines when a dog reaches ‘old age.’ In fact, old age will often depend on the size and breed of your dog. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the dog the faster it will age. For example, giant dog breeds will tend to age faster than say, a chihuahua. Some examples of when old age occurs include:
- Great Dane = 5 to 6 years old
- Golden Retriever = 8 to 10 years old
- Pug = 9 years old
- Husky = 7 years old
- Chihuahua = 10 to 11 years old
However, it’s important to remember that there’s no one age that determines old age in a dog. You should check with your vet the specifics of old age for your specific dog breed. Additionally, you may want to watch out for signs of old age yourself. These might include, change in energy, mood, and/or appetite.
1. Make Regular Check-ins with the Vet
Older dogs will be increasingly prone to medical issues and diseases. As a result, it is vital to make regular appointments with the vet. Not only can the vet help prevent certain issues through early diagnosis, but they can also aid with ensuring your dog gets the right medication should they develop a problem. Common old age problems include:
Canine cognitive dysfunction occurs in around 50% of all dogs over the age 11 years, and 68% over the age of 15. Symptoms often mirror those of human Alzheimer’s and can show as drastic changes in behaviour. Studies indicate the most common signs of canine cognitive dysfunction include disorientation, house soiling, lowered activity, and increased sleeping.
Like humans, dogs can also experience joint pain and arthritis. This often becomes an issue with older dogs in the joints which are weight baring such as the hips, knees and elbows. While it may not be obvious, there are certain tell-tale signs which could indicate arthritis. These include decreased activity and avoidance of joint-heavy activities, such as playing fetch or jumping in and out of a car. This is not necessarily a visible disease and should be checked with a vet.
Older dogs often develop organ problems such as heart and kidney failure. Kidney failure can lead to further difficulties like incontinence, where the dog loses control over their bladder. While there are medications that can control weak bladder, your dog may be at a higher risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI). Native Pet is a great, easy to understand website that offers more information about utis in dogs. Additionally, the site provides a variety of food supplements and probiotics that can help reduce risk of infections and help maintain your dog’s health well into old age. A UTI in dogs can be hard to diagnose, so it’s important to do your research and understand the signs to ensure your dog stays healthy and happy.
Having good communication with your vet can be extremely beneficial in ensuring early diagnosis and treatment for any age-related issues. As a result, we highly recommend choosing a vet that is easily accessible and that you’re comfortable with.
2. Stay Active!
Keeping your dog active is key in maintaining healthy joints and muscles. While this might be difficult if your dog suffers from low energy, there are many creative ways to keep your dog active. This may include taking your dog out on short walks or installing a suspending ball in the garden. In addition to physical exercise, it’s also important to keep your dogs mind active. A great activity with low physical demand includes puzzle food dispensers. These are a great way to keep your dog on the ball!
3. Change up the Bedding
As older dogs often experience joint and muscle pain, you may want to invest in some new, softer bedding. Whether you decide to add in a couple more towels and blankets or take the plunge and purchase a doggy memory foam mattress, the added padding will definitely be appreciated. Stairs may also be a particular issue for older dogs, and buying a ramp is a great way to tackle this issue. Or, on the cheaper end, you could create a makeshift ramp from cardboard!
4. Find the Ideal Food
Good nutrition is essential to keeping your dog happy and healthy. As older dogs may have a reduced metabolism due to decreased energy levels, we suggest buying age specific food. This will often have reduced fat content and contain the nutrients that are needed for your dog. Although age specific food can be bought at your local pet shop, it may be a good idea to consult with your vet before deciding on a food brand. Aging dogs are also more prone to gut problems and may have weaker teeth which should be taken into account. To boost metabolism and keep fur looking healthy, it’s always a good idea to check the label. Stay away from foods containing non-organic or low-quality proteins. Additionally, it’s important for your pet to get a good variety of nutrients, with proteins, carbohydrates and fibre. Probiotic supplements can be useful to help maintain your dog’s healthy gut. These work by promoting healthy bacteria growth and can reduce costly future vet bills! Selecting the right food can help sustain a healthy bodyweight which has been shown to account for a 20% longer life span.
5. Get Grooming
Due to low energy and joint pain, older dogs may find grooming increasingly difficult. As a result, we advise taking the time to groom your dog more frequently. While you can take your pet to the groomers, this could also be a great time to get in some at-home grooming sessions. This can reduce costs and allow you more quality bonding time. And, with research indicating that dog interaction reduces stress, this could benefit you as well as your dog!
Although owning a senior dog can feel stressful at times, it’s definitely worth it. With patience and a lot of love, senior dog care can be a breeze. The most important thing to remember is to have regular vet check-ups. These can reduce any old-age dog health anxieties you may have and help keep you and your dog happy for a long time to come.