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A Comprehensive Guide to Everyday Care for Your Senior Dog

February 01, 2021

As your pets age, their eyesight gets a little weaker, they become a little slower and they may not be able to hear as well as before but the love they have for you  is still the same. Inevitably, our dogs do grow older and just as it is with humans, some problems may creep in. During this stage of their lives, our loyal dogs need our love and care more than ever.

It is important to acknowledge the changes that take place and understand how to make your pet more comfortable in this period. Small changes in your routine, a few adjustments to their diet and regular vet visits can make the world of difference to your pet.

Senior Dog Health

Many of the issues that dogs in their senior years are similar to those that people also go through. From failing eyesight and weaker bladder control to bone and joint diseases like arthritis.

Failing Eyesight

All these conditions will affect your pet’s ability to go about his or her daily routine. But there are measures you can take to work around them. For example, if your dog’s eyesight is failing, he or she may be bumping into things or may miss a step while climbing down. You could cover any sharp edges on furniture with soft Styrofoam so even if your pet bumps into it, he or she won’t get hurt. Also, if you are leaving them on their own at home for a few hours, set up a ‘safe zone’ bound by door barriers or set up a play pen so your pet is safe and wont accidentally get hurt when you are not home. You could also let your pet rest in a large crate.

Bladder/ Kidney Issues

Weakened bladder control is common in older pets so, be sure to take your pet out for pee breaks more frequently during the day. You could also invest in pee pads to give your pooch easy access to a pee spot. If your pet has incontinence (lack of control over the bladder) having stain and odour removers at hand will be very useful to keep your space clean and smelling pleasant. Waterproof beds will also be very useful.

On the other hand, if your pet is straining to pee or not peeing as much as usual, this could be a sign of kidney problems. Please take your pet to the vet immediately.

Joint Issues

Joint-related diseases like arthritis could also set in. This will make it difficult for your pet to run, climb stairs and jump down from platforms as they used to when they were younger. Use a pet ramp or steps to help them get to the ground. Jumping down will only put more stress on their joints, causing them more pain. Switching their beds to low-lying orthopaedic beds that not only offer soft comfort but support to their aching joints will help your pet sleep better. Being low-lying your pet can step on to their beds without difficulty.

Extra smooth, tiled floors that many homes today have can make things worse. Your pet’s paws are not able to find suitable grip on these floors. This makes movement especially difficult for senior pets and can even contribute to making conditions like hip dysplasia worse. Using non-slip socks and booties will help your pets get a better grip.

In general, pay close attention to your pet. Notice things that are out of the ordinary as these could be signs of a larger internal problem. There are special supplements for older pets to ease specific conditions – for example a taurine supplement. But make sure you get the dosage and supplement checked by a vet before you start your pet on it. Be sure to pet your dog and feel his or her back and body for any new bumps or lumps. If you do feel one, get it checked by a vet immediately. Some older pets have a harder time breathing. While playing is necessary for them, make sure your pet doesn’t overexert himself.

Dental Care

Oral hygiene is extremely important for dogs of all ages. Brushing your pet’s teeth every day will prevent the formation of plaque and tartar. This keeps dental disease away. Not only is dental disease painful, it leads to loss of teeth which makes it difficult for your pet to eat. If you notice that your pet is chewing on only one side of his mouth, this may be because the other side is causing him pain. Studies have shown that dogs with periodontal disease are more likely to be diagnosed with heart conditions and other organ damage.

Mental Health

Pets too suffer from mental health issues including dementia in seniors. Canine cognitive dysfunction has many of the same symptoms exhibited in humans. This includes repetitive behaviour, disturbances in their sleep cycles, howling, whining or barking at inappropriate times, staring at walls and even disorientation. They have difficulty in finding their way inside their homes. Many pet parents see these symptoms and chalk it up to their pet ‘getting old’. However, early recognition and diagnosis is very helpful. So it is important to keep an eye out for any of these symptoms.

Everyday Life/ Routine

Has your pet’s daily routine been ‘eat, play and love’? Well, as he gets older the eat and play portions may get modified a little bit but the ‘love’ part always stays as strong as always.

In their senior years, dogs need to eat smaller meals and some senior pets may experience constipation. Get a vet’s advice on a good diet for your pet.

Senior pets may have difficulty in bending to reach their dog bowls so, invest in a raised diner so your pet can eat comfortably.

Their energy levels could drop so they may not be able to run around the park as much as before. Instead of concentrating of highly physical activities, try and include more puzzles and interactive toys to their routine. A Kong toy stuffed with treats or Nina Ottosson toys will exercise their minds. Take them for shorter walks and let them sniff around as much as they want. Sniffing out new scents is a form of mental stimulation as well. Games like hide and seek are another way to get your pet involved in some activity.

As mentioned earlier, some floors are not suitable for a pet’s paws. Slips and falls in senior pets can be very damaging, resulting in serious conditions like hip dysplasia. This is why it is useful to invest in non-slip booties and socks. To get down from elevated surfaces like sofas or from car seats use portable steps or ramps. Jumping down will only put more pressure on their already weak joints. This is also why switching their bed to a low-lying orthopaedic bed is advisable. Senior pets feel the cold more strongly so be sure to place their beds in a space that is protected from drafts and cold winds. Use blankets to keep them warm.

Senior pets have a tendency to develop separation anxiety. To calm them down during stressful periods using soothing music and lavender oil helps. They love to be around people so place their beds in a room where most of the family gathers or spends their evenings in. This will help make your pet feel included and loved.

Food

Your pet’s diet will probably change. Speak to a vet about a diet that meets your dog’s nutritional needs in addition to suiting his or her lifestyle. Senior dog diets often have added nutrients that help to boost brain activity and ease heart conditions. There are certain foods that your pet should not eat, get a list of these from your vet.

Their diet should not encourage a gain in weight because this makes it harder for them to carry their own weight. It also puts added stress on their joints. Smaller meals are generally encouraged. Food that includes glucosamine and chondroitin help in strengthening their joints. Omega fatty acids contribute to a healthier coat. Golden paste which includes antiseptic turmeric helps to keep your pet’s immune system strong.

Protein-centric food is an important part of their diet. This is because older dogs are less active and tend to lose muscle mass. You should check with a vet about adding a multi-vitamin supplement as well.

Make sure your pet has access to fresh, clean water and ensure that your pet is drinking enough water. Older pets are prone to dehydration.

Grooming

Visit your groomer more often so your pet needs less grooming and less time on the table. He or she may find it difficult to stand on the grooming table for long hours. Less grooming equals less standing. Use a softer brush that is gentler on your pet’s coat. A gentle massage with a massage brush or glove will encourage blood circulation as well. Keep a watchful eye out for any changes on your pet’s coat and body including for lumps and bumps.

Remember to keep up your pet’s oral hygiene. You can use dog-friendly toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental wipes, water additives and dental chews to help scrape off plaque and tartar.

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