Caring for your senior dog
It’s never easy watching a dog grow older and pine to be able to perform some of the tricks they used to breeze through as a pup. As with people, dogs slow down as they near towards the end of their life. You might see changes in some of their important bodily functions, but don’t forget that older often means wiser and, as the old saying goes, there’s bound to be plenty of life in the old dog yet.
Ageing is unfortunately part and parcel of life for both humans and their canine companions, but while this may result in some changes to personality, change isn’t always bad. Some dogs actually become friendlier as they grow old – becoming more inclined to curl up on the sofa for a cuddle rather than aimlessly running up and down the stairs.
They’re also more tired after walks, meaning you won’t have the trouble of trying to entertain them after only getting back from a five mile jaunt just an hour beforehand. Older dogs are far easier to satisfy, but you’ll need to keep an eye on their health. An older dog will require much more care and it’s in their later years that you’ll really be able to prove what a good owner you are.
So, the question begs; how can you tell when a dog is growing old? Middle age for most dogs is around seven years old, so consider eight or nine to be quite old for a pup. Smaller dogs will live until they’re around 15 years of age, while for medium to large breeds you’re looking at a lifespan of about 13.
Despite these guidelines it’s important to realise that each dog is different. Their health may deteriorate at a quicker rate than the norm, which means you’ll just need to be able to spot tell-tale signs of ageing and make changes to their lifestyle to keep them as healthy as possible.
You may have been able to get away with only taking your dog to the vets when they’ve encountered a problem with their health, but older dogs need regular check-ups. Vaccinations, worming and flea treatments will be vital to their wellbeing as their immune system starts to weaken. Checking their weight as well as having their blood and urine analysed for certain diseases is also worthwhile if you notice something different about the way they act.
Senior dogs are much less active than their middle-aged counterparts and have a much slower metabolism, which means they’ll need to take on less calories if they’re to maintain their weight. Protein is the vital ingredient in this stage of their life and you should always supply them with food that’s easy to digest.
A senior dog’s diet should be adjusted to contain plenty of high quality protein, carbohydrates that are easy to digest and as little fat as possible. Treats that are high in key vitamins and minerals will also help support their ageing immune system, but only if they’ll eat them!
You’ll need to step up your grooming efforts if you want to keep your dog nice and clean in their old age. If you don’t already, bath your dog at least once a week with a quality dog shampoo. This will help keep the skin clean and also give a sparkling shine to their coat.
A good brush of their hair every three days is an absolute must, while booking an appointment with a dog groomer for a quick trim might also be a good idea if you’ve noticed their coat getting a little messy. Older dogs will find it harder to twist and bend their body in order to clean themselves. By cutting their hair to a reasonable length, you’ll give them less work to do.
Routine dental care is also crucial for dogs, especially when considering the pain inflicted by gum disease and plaque. Older dogs are far more vulnerable to these conditions, which it’s why it’s always a good idea to book a check-up every few months or so. As for their everyday needs, healthy chews which also clean their teeth can keep some of the less severe diseases at bay.
In terms of home comforts, you wouldn’t go far wrong by giving your dog a comfy bed to rest up on. You should notice them retiring to the sofa and your own bed on a far more frequent basis. This is just a sign of their bones becoming weaker and needing a softer landing than the lounge carpet. By investing in a dog bed you’ll give your pup a place to sleep and probably save your sofa a few scrubs as a result.
Aside from their sleeping arrangements, it’s about noticing a struggle and acting upon it at the earliest possible chance. For instance, if you notice your dog finding it harder to get into the car after a walk, take to gently lifting them in or providing a ramp for them to use.
These might not seem like the biggest changes to make but you can guarantee they’ll mean the world to your dog.