How To Care For A Senior Dog

How To Care For A Senior Dog

It’s never easy to watch your beloved pet aging. Over the course of your pup’s lifetime, they will go through different stages that will require different care. From puppyhood, through adolescence, then adulthood and eventually, old age. For a new pet owner, it is hard to know what to expect with an aging dog. Caring fo geriatric dogs comes with a whole new set of rules. One focus of geriatric dog care is ensuring a good quality of life for your pup. Getting old and declining health is inevitable,but that doesn’t mean you can’t help your dog go through this life stage as comfortably as possible. In this article, we will outline elderly dog care and what that entails to make sure your elderly dog ages gracefully and lives a long and happy life. Taking these steps for elderly dogs will help the whole family in the long run.

When is a Dog Considered a Senior?

So at what age does a dog become a senior dog citizen? The answer is, it depends! Smaller breed dogs teen to have a longer lifespan than their larger counterparts. Largere breeds tend to live shorter lives so their seniordom comes sooner. So at what age is a dog considered senior? For small breeds, around 7-10 years of age. For large breeds, around 5-8 years of age. Genetics and overall general health may play a part in this equation as well.

How to Care for a Senior Dog to Keep Him Healthy & Happy/ Changing Needs of Older Dogs

Now that your dog is of senior age, you might be asking how to make an old dog happy?

Or how to make an old dog comfortable? Happiness and comfort are two ingredients for a long life. When caring for older dogs, you’ll need to adapt to their changing needs. This may mean alterations to diet, daily routines, playtime, walks and environment.

You should create a home for old dogs that best suits their needs. Your dog may need a more supportive bed to sleep in, as their joints become creaky with arthritis. Start thinking about your dog’s ability to get around and access your home. This is especially a concern for older dogs and stairs, but also for furniture or access to a vehicle. Invest in an older dog ramp and start early so they can get comfortable using this new contraption. This is especially important for dogs who like to sleep on couches or beds, as jumping down can be harder than jumping up. Teaching our dog to use a ramp instead of jumping will spare their muscles, joints and spine from injury. Your dog will need some training to use the ramp so remember, positive reinforcement works best!

An old dog may also be more susceptible to changes in temperature and get cold or hot more quickly than when they were a young pup. Your senior pet may now require a sweater for their wintry walks when they didn’t use to, whether this is due to fur loss, weight loss, etc. Same with walks in hot weather where your senior may get hot more easily. You’ll need to walk at a slower rate, stick to the shade, take water breaks and plan to have outings during the cooler times of day, such as the early morning and early evening. Take care to monitor your dog on these outings to prevent heat stroke, heart attack or hypothermia.

Grooming Senior Dogs

Daily care for senior dogs involves a little more TLC. Your pup might not be able to groom themselves like they once did, so helping with grooming will keep them looking better and feeling better. Regular brushing will help prevent matting. It also allows you to regular check your dog’s skin for signs of lumps, bumps and lesions. Bathing will keep your dog clean of dirt which can irritate old skin. Keep toenails trimmed so they can walk and stand more easily. For bathtime, consider investing in a non-slip matt so your dog doesn’t slip and struggle.

Feeding a Senior Dog

Excellent nutrition and access to plenty of water are important for an aging dog! Speak with your vet regarding the proper food and amounts of food to feed your dog. Switching to foods designed for seniors is best as these foods are created for a slower metabolism, which will prevent weight gain. If your dog has health issues, you may need specialty food. You should monitor your dog for how much water they consume to see if there might be any health concerns. For example, consuming excess amounts of liquids can signal a kidney issue. These can also lead to more accidents in the home as incontinence increases with age. Keep track of their weight as well and periodically weigh them to see if they are losing or gaining weight at a considerable rate. Try using elevated bowls, if you don’t already do so, to hel your dog access food and water more easily.

Mental Stimulation/Exercise for Senior Dogs

Keeping your dog active helps tremendously to their well being. Exercise benefits elderly dogs both mentally and physically. That being said, mobility often decreases with age. Start considering senior dog walking aids as well to help your dog get around town. Strollers and wagons are helpful. There are also dog slings, if your dog is small, and harnesses designed to help support your dog as they walk. Or you can hire a professional dog walker, also harnesses are especially helpful with old big dogs since they can’t be carried as easily as a smaller pooch. Shoes or toe grips also help aging dogs to get around more easily and comfortably. Keep in mind though that older dogs might not be able to go on long hikes like they once did, so try to keep the walks at a pace and length that they can handle. Same goes for playtime, where a mature dog might not be able to catch the frisbee or chase that ball down the lawn. Try giving your pooch new toys that can capture their attention in a different way, like puzzle toys or snuffle mats.

How Often Should You Take Senior Dog to Veterinarian?

Taking your pup to the vet is essential for senior dog care. Additionally, finding a vet you trust is vital to the care of seniors dogs.With regular check ups and blood work, you can catch health issues before they become larger issues. With the guidance of a vet, you will learn the signs your senior dog is healthy as well as the signs for when something is wrong.  Blood and urine tests can test for issues with the thyroid, kidney etc, which often plague older dogs. It’s important to ask questions, like how to care for a senior dog or what is the ideal senior dog vaccination schedule. Make sure to keep up with vaccinations, even if your pups are older and not as active or social as they once were. This will help keep your dog from catching an illness that will be harder for them to recover from as a senior, like kennel cough or lyme disease. Your vet may also help you come to the very difficult, but compassionate, decision of when to euthanize old dog.