Caring for your senior dog
Your dog has been your best friend for his or her life and as they reach their senior years it is nice to provide them with extra care and attention to ensure they grow old gracefully and comfortably. Different breeds of dogs age at different rates. Generally, small or medium sized dogs are seniors when they reach 7 years old, while large and giant breed dogs will enter their senior years earlier as they age faster. Our dogs cannot talk to us, but they will show us signs to suggest they are struggling. Questions to consider in assessing your dog's health include:
- Is your dog eating well and still enthusiastic about food?A loss of appetite can be a sign of many different illnesses.
- Is your dog drinking more water than usual? Hormone imbalances, infections, diabetes and kidney disease can all changes in your dog's drinking habits.
- Is your dog losing weight? As your dog ages, their metabolism will change and their food requirements may need to be adjusted. If they are struggling to keep weight on we recommend bringing it to us for a check up.
- Is your dog’s activity level changing? Arthritis is very common in older dogs, common signs include reluctance to play, reduced energy and a slow gait especially when your dog first gets up after resting. Arthritis is not the only possible cause of slowing down, other conditions such as heart disease will reduce your dog's ability to exercise.
- Is your dog's coat still shiney and full? A dry coat or hair loss can be a sign of illness.
- Is your dog having accidents inside? A loss of toilet training may indicate underlying illness, a weakness in your dog's bladder control (a common condition of older, female dogs) or dementia.
- Does your dog get lost or stuck in corners? Dementia or canine cognitive disorder is common in older dogs. Signs include disorientation, changes in how they play or interact with you, loss of toilet training and staying awake at night. Blindness is also common in older dogs and the onset can be quite insidious. Many people do not realize their dog has gone blind until they move furniture around and the dog struggles to get used to the change.
To care for your senior dog we recommend:
- Transition onto a high quality senior pet food. This food is good for maintaining healthy joints and brain function while keeping a nice lean weight.
- Try to make your house ‘senior-dog friendly’ with ramps in place of stairs, grip matts on slippery floors and assist your dog in and out of the car.
- Ensure your dog has soft bedding to reduce pressure on his or her joints when they sleep. An electric-heated bed or a warm coat can also help keep your dog's joints comfortable.
- If you have boisterous dogs or children at home, make sure to spend some quality alone time with your senior dog.
- Have you dog checked by a vet every 6-12 months. We may also recommend regular blood and urine testing. The earlier we can diagnose a problem, the better chance we have of successful treatment or good long term management.
- Enjoy every day with your dog. No one wants to think about their dog passing away, but with all this focus on monitoring for disease don’t forget to spend some quality time with your dog and create lasting memories.