It’s like someone pressed the fast forward button on life.
One minute you had a small, wriggly puppy, and then BOOM!
Suddenly, you have a grey-haired, senior dog and you’re unsure of how to cope with this change.
Your dog doesn’t move as fast as it used to, and simple daily activities seem to tire the poor pooch out.
I’ve got you covered. Here are some of the points you need to address to keep your dog healthy and happy in retirement…
1. Regular Vet Visits
Vets recommend that you take your older dog for a check-up every six months. As the years go by, your aging companion will become more prone to illnesses and joint problems.
Ideally, your dog should have regular vet check-ups throughout its life. This medical history will help to establish a baseline for your dog’s health. Using this, the vet can quickly tell if your dog’s condition has changed.
Changes in behavior, energy levels, and appetite are all red flags that something may be wrong with your four-legged friend.
If you notice any of these changes, don’t wait until your next vet visit. Early detection is vital, especially for conditions such as glaucoma.
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2. A Nutritional Diet
Caring for your senior dog often involves a change in dog food. As your dog ages, its dietary needs will change.
Geriatric dogs often suffer from weight gain. While your dog’s sausage body may look cute, added body weight puts pressure on your dog’s tired joints. This can also lead to heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
A well balanced, specialized diet can treat or prevent some of these problems.
Dogs with arthritis and joint pain may benefit from added glucosamine or Omega 3 fatty acids.
High carnitine, low-calorie diets are good for over-weight dogs. Low sodium diets are good for dogs with heart disease.
Talk to your vet about a diet that addresses your dog’s specific nutritional needs.
3. Good Oral Health
Most humans brush their teeth twice a day, but very few pet owners give their dog’s teeth the same care and attention.
As a result, around 80% of dogs develop gum disease by the age of 3. These problems can escalate in senior dogs, resulting in pain, tooth loss, or seriously bad breath.
Ideally, you should start cleaning your dog’s teeth from an early age, but better late than never.
Brush your dog’s teeth daily, using doggie toothpaste. If your dog is not a fan of the toothbrush, try some dental treats or toys designed to clean their teeth.
During your annual check-up, ask your vet to give your dog’s teeth a professional cleaning.
4. Pamper Your Pooch
As they become less flexible, older dogs struggle to reach and clean all areas of their body. As a result, their fur can become dirty and matted.
Give your shaggy friend a daily brush to keep their coat healthy and clean. Brushing also helps to spread natural oils over their skin, stopping it from becoming dry and flaky.
Your dog will lap up this extra attention, so use this time to give them lots of love and cuddles. Dogs who suffer from sight or hearing loss really benefit from physical touch and affection.
5. Get Those Joints Moving
Senior dogs don’t have as much energy as they used to, but they still enjoy a leisurely walk or sniff around the park.
Regular exercise helps to maintain healthy joints and will fight off weight gain.
Supervised swimming is a great, low-impact form of exercise for dogs who suffer from joint pain or arthritis. If you don’t have a swimming pool at home, take your dog to a hydrotherapy center.
Keep in mind that your dog’s stamina will decrease as they age. An aging dog won’t be able to walk as far or run as fast as they did before.
Make sure you always have water available and limit exercise on overly hot or humid days.
6. Put Your Thinking Cap On
It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Regular mental stimulation keeps your dog mentally alert and can ease the effects of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
Keep those natural instincts sharp by playing nose games. Try playing “hide and seek” with your dog’s favorite toy, or bury some treats in a snuffle mat.
Practicing basic training and tricks will dust off those mental cobwebs while allowing you to spend quality time with your pooch.
Puzzle toys and logic games are also great ways to keep your dog’s mind working.
7. Easy Access
As your dog’s joints stiffen up and their vision blurs, accessing beds or sofa becomes increasingly difficult. Consider buying doggie stairs to help your dog reach these raised sleeping areas.
An Orthopaedic pet bed will ease your dog’s sore joints. Some beds even come with heating elements to provide additional relief in the cold winter months.
8. Safety First
As your dog’s mobility and vision deteriorate, your house can become a tricky obstacle course for them to navigate.
Older dogs battle to gain their footing on slippery floors. If your house has wooden floors or tiles, add rugs and carpets to help your dog gain better traction.
Climbing up and downstairs can be a strain for senior dogs. For short steps, like those going from your house to the garden, consider buying or building a doggy ramp. If your main stairway becomes a health hazard, you may need to install a baby gate to block access to this area.
Avoid rearranging furniture as this may confuse older dogs who can’t see very well.
Lastly, watch where you step. Senior dogs with reduced hearing may not hear you coming, so be careful not to trip over them.
Keep Your Senior Dog’s Tail Wagging
Your faithful friend has stood by your side their whole life. Now, you can return the favor.
Using the advice above, you can ensure that your senior dog remains happy and healthy in their golden years.
Looking for more dog-related stories? Browse through my other articles for more canine-centric content!
Adobe Stock royalty-free image #167945701, ‘Happy senior mixed breed dog’ uploaded by Jane Bettany, standard license purchased from https://stock.adobe.com/images/download/167945701; file retrieved on December 9th, 2018. License details available at https://stock.adobe.com/license-terms – image is licensed under the Adobe Stock Standard License