Cloudy eyes, greying muzzles, longer sleep hours, and lack of spunk are all constant reminders that our pets are getting old. And as much as we don’t want to admit it, we do need to be receptive to the idea that our pets are no longer young. They will get sick. And they will need additional care.
While we can’t stop time, we can make our four-legged companions comfortable.
If you’ve got an aging pet with health conditions, you might be wondering, How can I make my old dog more comfortable?
We’ve rounded up some of the top-ranked expert tips and answers to senior dog behavior-related questions to help out!
Caring for Your Old Dog: Tips to Help Them Stay Healthy
So, what are the important things to keep in mind while caring for your old dog? Here’s our list of top-faced issues and suggestions.
Keep a Weight Check
As dogs become older, they tend to become lethargic and can easily put on a few kilos. And with weight gain comes sickness—respiratory disorders, heart disease, excessive stress on already deteriorating joints, etc.
The best way to ensure that your dog remains healthy as it ages is to feed them an age-appropriate diet—one that is lower in carbs and fats. Unsure of what brand of dry or wet pet food you should switch to for your senior dog? Speak with your vet—they’re familiar with your dog’s medical history and weight gain tendencies, along with activity levels.
Some breeds are known to lose weight as they grow older. Weight fluctuations depend on hormones, metabolism, lowered appetite, due to loss of sense of smell, etc. While a little weight loss isn’t worrying, consult your vet if your dog has lost 10% or more of its weight.
Keep Them Active
Mobility is key to maintaining proper senior dog health. Unfortunately, as a dog ages, it is common for them to slow down and become physically less active. If your dog has a sedentary lifestyle, it is likely they will develop joint pain, arthritis, or other health issues.
Some activities to engage in with your pet include:
- Taking your pet for a low-intensity hike
- Walking them in the neighborhood park
- Enrolling them in a low-intensity physical group activity
- Taking them swimming
- Playing fetch or hide and seek with them
Use Natural Supplements
Feeding your dogs the right natural supplements can improve your pet’s mental and physical health. Natural supplements like fish oil tablets, omega-rich tablets, turmeric for dogs should be an integral part of a pet’s balanced health.
Why? Because supplements help boost your dog’s immunity, improve their digestive system, and allow them to age gracefully.
As always, before giving your dog any kind of medication, supplements included, please consult a vet to learn about appropriate dosage, side effects, and any accompanying meal or exercise modifications.
Most pet parents don’t prioritize their dog’s oral care. And while it is a debatable decision, we recommend cleaning your senior dog’s teeth regularly. Not only is brushing a great way to remove plaque build-up from your dog’s mouth, but it allows you to inspect their teeth and gums.
Early identification of oral problems such as weak, infected, or missing teeth and gum disease can prevent complications from reduced food intake and weakened immune systems in senior dogs.
For your dog to be more accepting of the dental care that you provide to them, make sure you are gentle with the process. Use good enzymatic pet toothpaste, and under no conditions substitute their toothpaste with a generic human toothpaste.
Spend Time With Them
Dogs are lively creatures, but as they age, their senses begin to weaken. With impaired eyesight, sense of smell and taste, even hearing, the world becomes a scarier place. This is why senior dogs need more attention—your companionship will make them feel loved and reassured.
Here are some activities you can do with your senior buddies to spend more time with them:
- Take them out—depending on your dog’s health, this could mean slow walks or car rides
- Rub their bellies while you snuggle and interact with them on your sofa
- Have a picnic in the backyard
- Visit a nearby dog park for an afternoon of sun and peace
- Schedule dates that involve your pets
- Too much is going on with your life? Take a day off from work and spend it with your pet.
Conduct an Eye Test
Your dog’s eyesight will weaken over time, leading to a whole host of physical and mental issues. Some dogs are prone to losing their vision completely as they age. Others develop conditions like lenticular sclerosis or nuclear sclerosis, where their pupils are cloudy and discolored. This is why it is vital to evaluate your senior dog’s eyesight regularly.
If you see your dog doing the following, schedule an eye test for them:
- Bumping into walls
- Not paying attention
- Having trouble locating their toys
- Becoming more anxious
- Displaying aggressive behavior
Give Daily Massages
Knots, cramps, stiff muscles, and nerve compressions are not just a human condition—senior dogs also experience these. This is why vets will always support massaging as an easy yet effective way of benefitting your senior dog’s physical health.
Daily massages stimulate blood flow, relax muscles and reduce possibilities of injuries. If a stiff muscle prevents your dog from moving about freely, you can try inducing movement by giving them daily massages.
ALSO READ: 4 Ways to Focus on Your Dog’s Health
Try Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy is a non-invasive therapy that uses low levels of light to promote healing. It is a common therapy used to increase blood circulation in dogs. Not only does it stimulate proper functioning of their body cells, but it also treats joint pain and arthritis, and other ligament injuries.
The best part about this therapy is that it is pain-free and relatively inexpensive compared to other therapy options.
Increase the Height of Food or Water Bowls
Elevating dog food or water bowls minimizes the chances of your senior dog developing back and neck issues. Since older dogs often suffer from arthritis, elevated food and water bowls mean less trouble eating and drinking. Like humans, older pets can also suffer from digestive system-related concerns like difficulty swallowing, indigestion, etc.—all of which are easily solvable with elevated food and water bowls.
Provide an Enriching Diet
Owing to the changes senior dogs experience, they need diet modifications, including lowered phosphorus levels, increased protein intake, and antioxidant levels, amongst others. Always consult a vet before making dietary changes for your dog as health conditions, organ function, activity levels, etc will be influencing factors.
Here are general guidelines that you can follow:
Some safe options that you should include in your dog’s diet are — boneless chicken, boiled eggs, seedless watermelon, bananas, beetroot, and pumpkin.
Unsafe options include — chocolates, fatty meat, excess dairy products, baked goods containing xylitol, or anything with caffeine.
Signs Your Dog is Getting Old
Most first-time pet owners are unaware of what is considered old age for a dog. They are also unsure how to spot signs that their pets are aging beyond the greying fur and clouding eyes.
Here are a few ways to tell if your dog is getting old:
- Their appetite will reduce significantly
- Their pace will slow down
- Incidents of degenerative diseases and illnesses will become more frequent
- Behavioral changes – increased barking, forgetfulness, increased anxiety, etc.
- Continuous pain and stiffness in their joints
- Lack of control over bodily functions
So, how do you take care of a senior dog? Surprisingly, it isn’t all that hard. Here are our top recommendations!
How Can I Make My Old Dog Happy?
Looking after an old dog isn’t all that challenging. And of all the suggestions you’ll hear, the most crucial one is to spend ample time with them.
Here are some ideas:
- Learn to recognize growls and whimpers as these will help you identify when your dog is uncomfortable
- Interact with them regularly—physical contact and companionship are crucial to maintaining a senior dog’s mental health
- Respect their space – most senior pets are overwhelmed by the sounds and activities in a bustling home. Give them a quiet space to retreat to.
- Learn more about their behavioral changes and how to cope
- Create a routine – there’s reassurance and a sense of security in routines, even for dogs
Age tends to get the better of us—even dogs—which is why they need extra attention and love.
But caring for your old dog doesn’t have to be a complicated process—all you need is a little extra time, regular vet visits, and modifications in diet and exercise to help them stay happy and comfortable in their senior years.