We don’t like to think about it, but our pets don’t live as long as we do. They age at a much faster rate. While the old rule of 7 dog years for 1 human year isn’t exactly correct, it does illustrate the point. For example, large breed dogs will age faster than the small breed variety. Regardless of breed, for most pet owners, caring for an ageing pet is or will be a reality. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a good reality! It means that your pet has lived a long and happy life and with proper care, can live just as happily for years to come.
Obviously, senior dogs and cats have different care requirements than younger animals. So here are a few tips to keep your dog happy and healthy as they grow older:
- Schedule yearly trips to your veterinarian. Even if your dog appears healthy, as they age, issues may be happening behind the scenes. It is much cheaper and safer to prevent health issues than to treat them after they occur.
- Exercise your senior dog. As animals age, weight gain can be an issue. Proper exercise keeps a dog’s weight in check and joints and muscles functioning as they age. Remember that exercise requirements will vary with the dog’s age as well as breed. A large breed dog might need longer walks than a small breed.
- Consider adding fatty acids (DHA & EPA) to your older dog’s diet. Fatty acids can be beneficial for your dog’s joints and aid with arthritis as they age. Check with your veterinarian for ways to supplement your dog’s diet.
- Keep an eye on them around children and other dogs, especially puppies. Even if your dog has always been great around kids and loves to play, this may change as they get older. It’s hard for a dog to communicate when they are sore or irritable. Even if they do, children aren’t terribly good at picking up on it. The rough play style of children and puppies may irritate or injure your older dog and result in a snap or a bite.
- Regular grooming is especially important for an ageing dog. Brushing helps keep their skin from becoming dry. Also, you are more likely to discover any lumps or other abnormalities while brushing. Be sure to consult your veterinarian if you discover something.
- Pay special attention to your dog’s teeth. A senior dog is more likely to develop tooth decay which can actually lead to heart problems. Brush their teeth or give them dental treats to keep their teeth healthy.
- If you notice your dog isn’t responding to verbal commands as readily, they may have a hearing problem. You can modify your communication to include touch and hand signals. You should also be careful approaching dogs with hearing issues from behind or while they are sleeping.
- Just as a senior dog may develop hearing issues, they may also begin to have vision problems. Your veterinarian can check for sure. Avoid moving furniture around or changing where you store their toys.
- Senior dog may need to relieve themselves more often. Be sure to give them plenty of opportunities to do so. If you are able, let them out through the night. If not, an absorbent pad may be an answer.
- Have patience! You senior dog is the same companion you raised from a pup. They may not be as fast or as playful, but they love you just as much. They may lean on you more than they did, but you are still their world.