All their lives, our dogs do nothing but look after us, protect us, and devote their time to us. They are no doubt our best friends. That is why it’s heart-breaking to see dogs abandoned in the streets or left in the shelters because their owners think they’re old, developed health issues and considered disposable. Whether a cute and cuddly puppy or old and aging senior, dogs deserve our love and care. It is during their aging years when they need us the most. Caring for senior dogs is not as difficult as you think. We’ve gathered 10 helpful tips for caring for senior dogs to keep them healthy like a puppy.
Is my dog already senior?
Dogs are considered old or senior when they reach the age of 7. Contrary to popular belief that one year in dog years is equivalent to 7 in human years or that 7 years of dog age is equivalent to a certain number, it is actually more complicated to count. But there are calculations that can help determine your dog’s age in human terms.
Old or senior dogs are prone to many health ailments like aging humans. This is especially true if during their puppy years they are very active (had accidents, injuries or damaged joints), living an unhealthy lifestyle (not exercising, eating unhealthy foods) or have weak immune system.
So, when your dog is considered geriatric, what should you do?
10 Helpful Tips for Caring for Your Senior Dogs
For all the times you spend with your dogs, you would know if there are any changes in their behavior. Are they moving less? Are they in pain? Do they easily get tired now? Are they having stomach problems from the foods or treats you regularly give them? Observe your dog’s behavior and health changes closely and tell your vet about it.
Check-ups and routine exams
As they grow older, your dogs will need more health care. They are now more prone to diseases as their immune system will not be as strong. Aging will also weaken their bones, might make them lose their hearing and eyesight, and weaken their bladder.
50% of dogs over the age of 10 develop cancer at some point.
Therefore, it is advisable to visit your vet regularly for a check-up and have routine exams to monitor their health. See if they should be given medications for special needs.
Semi-annual instead of annual vet appointments is better. Have your dog screened for any developing health issues or to assess their health condition.
Ask the vet if they need supplements to give their health a boost.
Watch their diet
During your vet visits, ask your doctor what food is best for your dog’s age and health condition. They should be given foods that are easy to digest, and with nutrition that can keep them active or moving.
If your dog has age-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, liver and kidney problems, or oral diseases, then you need to check what their nutritional needs should be.
Senior dogs need a balanced diet that is lower in calories, higher in fiber, and has enough protein and fat.
Since they will not be as active as they were before, you should also see to it that they don’t gain weight by overeating, or eating foods that are high in carbohydrates or fats that are not easily burned.
Did you know?
Dogs who are overweight are more prone to arthritis because they exert more strain in their joints.
Give them plenty of water because they will also be more prone to dehydration.
Contrary to the belief that senior dogs need to rest all the time, senior dogs actually need to exercise.
Engage them in regular, light exercise or physical activities to help maintain their ideal weight.
Getting them outside for a walk around nature can also help lift their mood, stimulate them mentally, and expose them to fresh air which is good for their lungs and well-being.
Swimming is an ideal exercise for aging dogs as they lose weight without too much pounding that can damage their joints. It can also help cool them down during hot days.
Even when they are aging, dogs are still just a puppy at heart. So let them play if they want to play. If you’re outside and they get tired, don’t force them to walk. Carry them.
For senior dogs with arthritis or join pain issues, give them treats or supplements that can help improve their mobility, relieve pain and minimize stiffness.
Here are some telling signs of arthritis in dogs:
Limping or stiffness in joints
Difficulty in walking/standing
Decrease in physical activity
Hip & Joint Revita Chew has Glucosamine and is the ONLY joint supplement that contains Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Both of these main ingredients can restore your dog’s joint health. It can repair, strengthen, and heal joint and cartilage function.
Never give human pain medication without asking your vet about it.
Poorly groomed dogs are more prone to sickness. This is because they are more prone to bacteria and infection. Keep them clean. This method will also help you monitor for any lumps or bumps, and see if they are in pain or are uncomfortable.
Prevention is better than cure. It is better to be sure than sorry when it comes to your senior dog’s health. There are dog supplements available in the market that are both safe to give to your senior dogs and effective. Check the label to see if you are giving them medicine or supplements that will not aggravate their present conditions or put their health at risk.
As they age, dogs will be more prone to arthritis, thus they will not be moving as much. They will also have weaker liver and bladder due to aging or that might have been caused by medications and wrong diet in the past.
Give them supplements for pain that can protect and improve their joints and ligaments to help them move around. Give them liver and bladder supplements to keep their digestive system and urinary tracts healthy, which will impact their general health in a major way.
K9’s Bladder and Kidney Support has scientifically developed formula that contains cranberry powder that prevents the adherence of bacteria and reduces the chances of stone formation; anti-inflammatory herbs (nettle seed powder and organic licorice powder); organic astragalus powder that maintains normal blood pressure and boosts immunity; and organic marshmallow root powder that slows down the breakdown of tissues and maintains the function of the nephrons and the activity of the kidneys.
Adjust to their needs
Make your home as comfortable as possible.
If they are in constant pain due to arthritis or too much movement, give them beds that are more comfortable to sleep on.
If they are too old to climb stairs or get tired easily, keep what they need downstairs or near them.
Feed them a little far from where they sleep or stay but not too far that it will be a chore for them to walk towards it. Give them toys to keep them entertained when they can’t go outside.
If you think your dog could use some strolling but unable to walk for long, put them on a stroller.
Elevate their feeding platforms so there is less strain on the their neck, shoulders, hips and joints.
Mental health matters
As with old people, some dogs may develop senility. How do you know that your dog is going senile?
Here are some signs to watch out for:
Change in sleeping pattern or sleeping more than usual
Decreased physical activity and interaction with human
Confusion or disorientation (feeling lost in familiar places, inability to recognize familiar people)
Staring at walls
Change in appetite
Howling, barking or whining in inappropriate times
Don’t forget his oral health
Oral health is vital in your dog’s overall health. It is often taken for granted. Aside from pain, bacterial infection can lead to a serious problem especially with senior dogs that have weaker immune system.
Take better care of your dog’s oral health not just by regular brushing.
Give them dental chews that can lower the amount of plaque and cavities in their teeth. Chewing hard raw carrots can also help scrape tartar and plaque build-up on your dog’s teeth.
Adding parsley to their food can give them fresher breath.
Bring them to the professional for oral check-up.
Let them be
Sometimes all your senior dog really needs is to rest. There are times when they don’t want to be bothered. Let them be. Allow them to enjoy their time for themselves. Just be sure you’re there when they need you and you keep them comfortable all the time.
Love them more
Whether you like it or not, even when you know you’re never ready for it, senior dogs’ years are numbered. Spend as much time as you could with them. Play with them more, care for them more, hug them more, and engage them in activities that are not too strenuous for their age. Your dog knows how much you love them but this is the best time to reassure them of that.
Your dog’s needs will change when he reach his “golden years”. You need to monitor closely things from his diet to his activities. But more than that, you need to be there for them all the time.
They have dedicated their lives being there for you. A little more quality time from you will surely keep them happy in their remaining years.