As much as our dogs will always be puppies in our eyes, the reality is they do age much faster than humans, meaning you’ll need to know how to care for your senior dog. While “senior” varies by breed, typically a dog is considered “senior” anywhere between the ages of seven and ten. To help keep your dog enjoying a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life, make sure you stay on top of the following.
With dog weight playing a major role in your dog’s health, it’s imperative that you keep them at a healthy weight as they age.
- Food: Consider your dog’s current health, activity level, along with the common health challenges for your dog’s breed (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, etc.). The food you choose should support their digestive health, along with the weight they’re at. If they’re overweight or obese, consult with your veterinarian about what weight loss / management food makes sense for your aging dog.
- Exercise: Just because your dog is old, doesn’t mean they want to stop exercising. Still walk and play with them. Even if they can’t go as far, as long, or as fast as they used to, keeping them active will help them maintain a healthy weight.
- Arthritis: arthritis is common in many breeds of dogs. Any extra weight may add unnecessary pressure and strain to their aging joints. Help minimize arthritis (or pain) by keeping their weight in their healthy zones.
Just like humans, your furry friend’s teeth (and any plaque or tartar build up) are great indicators of their current health and any potential health issues. While there’s no need to break out the floss for your pooch, we do recommend:
- Providing chew toys and dental sticks for them to massage their gums and remove plaque / tartar build up.
- Brushing once a day (or as often as possible during the week) with a toothbrush (or finger brush) and toothpaste.
Sometimes keeping your dog’s mind active is the best way to care for them, particularly if their breed is prone to senility. So, stimulate their brain!
- Puzzles are great – try adding a treat in a puzzle toy,
- Play hide and seek, where they have to find you,
- Teach them a new chore or practice agility skills,
- The sky’s the limit!
While it’s normal for senior dogs to sleep a bit more or slow down on walks, pay attention to any changes in their behaviour as this could indicate an underlying health issue. A few examples of common behaviour changes include:
- Increase in aggressive or protective behaviour (unprovoked)
- Regular house soiling
- Decrease in grooming
- Possible confusion or disorientation
- Increased irritability or anxiety
Check your dog’s health regularly, possibly increasing your annual checkup to twice a year should more aging concerns appear (e.g. hearing or vision loss). Caring for your senior dog is simply about looking after the one you love. Feed them well, keep them exercised, and challenge them mentally as they move into their senior years and you’ll still have that happy puppy on the inside!
Want to learn more about developing your own dog’s senior care plan? Call Happy Paws Vet – helping you look after your dog is our passion!