Is there anything sweeter than a dog that’s getting gray in the face? Senior dogs make amazing companions, especially for owners who aren’t prepared to keep up with the demands of a high-energy pup. But older dogs come with challenges of their own.
Keeping Up with Vet Care as Your Dog Ages
Regular check-ups are more important than ever when your dog hits the senior years. Wellness visits are a chance for your vet to recommend pet care changes that will preserve your dog’s health and catch diseases before they become prohibitively expensive or impossible to treat.
Wellness visits should be scheduled every six months for senior dogs. Regular dental care also needs to become a part of your dog’s care if it’s not already. Dental problems affect your dog’s ability to eat and can lead to serious infections. Annual cleanings keep your dog’s teeth clean and identify dental problems before they get serious.
Helping Your Older Dog Get Around
Arthritis is common in senior dogs. Like in humans, arthritis affects your dog’s ability to move comfortably. Your dog may walk a little slower, lost interest in jumping onto the couch, or let out a tell-tale groan when settling onto his bed.
Little changes around the house make a big difference in the life of an arthritic dog. Area rugs and stair treads help your dog get a grip on hard flooring, while pet stairs let him climb into the car or onto furniture with ease. When it’s time for bed, an orthopedic dog bed cushions your pet’s aging joints against the hard floor.
It’s extremely important that arthritic dogs exercise. Exercise promotes healthy joints to prevent further degeneration and stops your dog from becoming overweight and adding more strain to his joints. Drs. Foster & Smith offer tips for exercising an arthritic dog.
Fine-Tuning Your Senior Dog’s Diet
Exercise is only one part of keeping your senior dog trim. Portion control is key to preventing weight gain as older dogs start to slow down. If your dog is gaining weight, adjusting his portions is a good place to start. However, you should also rethink what you’re feeding your aging pup.
Senior dogs need food with high-quality animal-based proteins. Senior dogs struggling with their weight also benefit from cutting back on fat. If your dog has trouble chewing kibble because of dental problems, it might be time to switch to soft food.
Thinking about adding supplements to your senior dog’s diet? The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are especially beneficial for senior dogs’ joints, and glucosamine and chondroitin may help too. Of course, always talk to your vet before giving your dog supplements.
For more information on senior dog nutrition, take a look at Nom Nom Now’s detailed guide.
Dealing with Dementia in Senior Dogs
Sadly, some senior dogs lose cognitive function. Dogs with dementia may show signs of confusion, like getting lost in their backyard or forgetting commands they’ve known for years. They may lose enthusiasm for exercise and play and start having accidents in the house.
Dealing with canine dementia is worrying and frustrating all at once, but there are ways to manage it. On top of talking to your vet about medication (and to rule out other health problems), you can restrict your senior dog to areas of the home that are easy to clean and increase the frequency of trips outside to reduce accidents. Keeping a predictable daily routine also helps. Be sure to include exercise in that routine! Exercise minimizes sleep disruptions in dogs with dementia and provides essential mental stimulation.
Living with a senior dog can be tough, especially if your schedule doesn’t grant you a lot of time to keep up with your dog’s increased needs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a great owner to your aging pup — you just need a little extra help! From dog walkers to poop scoopers, there’s no shortage of dog-loving professionals who can help your senior dog age with grace.
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