As pet parents, there comes a day when we have to realize our furry friend is getting old. While graying muzzles and slower activity is a sign, dogs hit their senior years sometime between the ages of 5 to 10 years.
As difficult as it can be, understanding their aging process and taking measures to care for them maintains their quality of life. To help keep your best friend healthy and active, here are several tips to remember when caring for older dogs.
Make Regular Vet Appointments
As a dog ages, their immune system weakens, leaving them at risk for developing a variety of ailments. To keep your senior dog healthy, schedule regular check-ups with their veterinarian.
Most older dogs should have exams every six months. Routine tests are important to establish a baseline of their health and well-being. That way if a health condition does develop, it gets caught in the early stages.
Plus, your vet can give regular suggestions on ways to keep your dog active and healthy, which is important to prevent many age-related diseases.
Adjust Your Dog’s Diet to Changing Needs
As with humans, a dog’s digestive and nutritional needs will change as they age. Finding the best dog food to fit their needs will keep your dog’s weight in check and ensure they get daily vitamins and minerals.
Be careful of your dog’s caloric intake. Older dogs are usually not as active as they once were, making it easier to add on extra pounds. Discuss how much food your dog should be eating with their veterinarian.
Also, dry food may be harder for older dogs to digest or chew. Transitioning from dry to wet food will help those suffering from constipation, increase their moisture content, and help them chew.
Practice Good Grooming
Grooming may already be a regular fixture in your dog’s life, but as dogs get older their grooming should get extra attention.
Older dogs develop dry, sensitive skin and their fur coats can look dull. Using products formulated to moisturize and be gentle on sensitive skin will keep your dog’s coat lustrous plus reduce skin irritation.
Inactivity with age also contributes to growing nails. Unruly nails can be painful and will cause your dog to remain sedentary. Even if it’s never been an issue before, regularly check your dog’s nails and keep them clipped.
Grooming is also a great opportunity to inspect your dog for new lumps or bumps that could indicate a health issue.
Get Your Dog Plenty of Exercise
The older your dog gets, the more you should encourage physical activity. Whether it be a walk around the neighborhood or playing in a dog park, exercise will keep your dog healthy.
Exercise for dogs will build muscle and keep them strong. It also helps prevent obesity and stimulates a dog’s appetite, ensuring your older dog continues to eat.
Another important factor of exercise for older dogs is better moods. Boredom and depression in older dogs contributes to poor health. Keeping them active prevents anxiety and gives them something fun to do.
Always tailor your dog’s exercise routine to their individual needs. A larger dog can walk further than a smaller dog. Start any activity slow and build it up as your dog gets used to it.
Take Care of Their Mouth
While proper oral hygiene is important throughout your dog’s life, you need to pay special attention to it in their later years.
Poor oral hygiene in an older dog can cause irritation, diseases, and tooth loss. If left untreated, bacteria can get into your dog’s bloodstream and cause serious health concerns.
Regularly brush your dog’s teeth at home, then go in for a professional cleaning once a year. If your dog doesn’t like the brushing, give them a dental treat or toy that promotes clean teeth.
Make Special Accommodations to Your House
Arthritis, stiff muscles, and poor eyesight make it hard for older dogs to get around the house. By making special accommodations for them, you’ll increase their comfort and make your house safer.
Younger dogs have no problem sprawling out on a hard floor to sleep. For older dogs, a hard surface can aggravate stiff muscles and joints. Give your senior pal a soft bed to sleep on.
Ramps make it easier for senior dogs to get in and out of your bed or into your car. There are also special ramps to help dogs navigate stairs.
If you have slippery floors, consider putting down rugs. Many older dogs with arthritis can find slick floors painful to walk on. Plus, slippery floors create a hazard for an older dog to get injured.
Provide Better Protection from Weather Extremes
Your dog may have enjoyed any type of weather when he or she was young, but discomfort may surface as they get older.
Keep stiff joints and muscles warm in the wintertime. Lining your dog’s bed with extra blankets will keep them cozy. Also, dress them in a dog coat and boots to go out in the snow.
During the hot summer months, provide plenty of fresh water and shade. There are cooling coats you can buy for extra comfort. If your dog enjoys water, a small kiddo pool will not only keep them cool but give them a fun activity.
Invest in Supportive Therapy
If your furry friend limps or seems to suffer from pain and stiffness, consider natural therapies to give them relief.
More and more vet clinics now offer physical therapy. Depending on your dog’s needs, treatment can include hydrotherapy, joint mobilization, therapeutic massage, and more.
Acupuncture is another option for older dogs. This therapy is good for dogs with musculoskeletal problems, neurologic disorders, respiratory issues, and gastrointestinal problems. Dogs take to the fine needles as well as humans do, with many sleeping through procedures.
Give Your Older Dogs Tender Loving Care
Give your older dogs the golden years they deserve. By using these tips, you will keep your senior furry friend happy and healthy.
Has keeping your dog healthy inspired you to take better care of yourself? Check out ways to improve your own health on our Health blog!