Tail-Wagging TLC Tips for Older Dogs
Would you describe your canine as “up in years?” If you’ve owned your more mature pooch since puppyhood, you’ve probably enjoyed hundreds of long walks and enthusiastic greetings. So seeing that white fur crop up on the snout can be bittersweet, to say the least. There’s a comfort level we share with our older dogs that few things manage to replicate. Coming to terms with the word “senior” can be challenging on many levels. Fortunately, with a little extra attention from you, your final years together can be happy and rewarding. There are several ways to keep your furry friend comfortable, and provide a better quality of life. Remember, the American Veterinary Medical Association considers most dogs “senior” once they advance beyond the age of five to seven, depending upon size. So when your favorite pup reaches this stage, consider these tips to help his golden years shine.
Visit the Vet
Your veterinarian is your skilled partner when it comes to catching age-related health issues. Vets can also suggest therapies and treatment alterations best suited to your older dog’s condition. For example, some vets may recommend modifying your canine companion’s vaccination schedule. Others may suggest medications aimed at improving mobility. In short, don’t start skipping appointments once your pet becomes a senior. Also, don't forget about proper pet insurance for your senior pets.
As older pets become more sedentary, they may require fewer calories. You might notice physical changes like weight gain, slower digestion, or decreased appetite. Watch those numbers on the scale, because excess pounds can worsen joint-related issues like arthritis. So talk with your vet about diet and portion size. You may want to begin transitioning to a food you can customize, like Sojo’s Mix-a-Meal. You may also want to consider offering several smaller meals throughout the day, rather than one large bowl of food. To weigh an older pooch with minimal hassle, first step on the scale yourself. Note the number. Then lift your dog, step on the scale again, and calculate the difference.
Activity may look a bit different for a senior dog, but it shouldn’t stop altogether. Sure, most older pups can’t run and jump the way they used to. But remember that regular movement helps provide mental stimulation, while lubricating tender joints. Want an easy way to provide beneficial exercise, even when your schedule’s hectic? Gentle strolls from a reputable provider like Sparky Steps are often just what the doctor ordered.
Keep an Eye Out
Many older dogs develop cataracts or lenticular sclerosis. These are two different eye conditions, but both can affect vision. So remember that your pooch may not even see that dangerous staircase, or the steep edge of your bed. Worried about falls? Set up a few baby gates around the house. If your pet wants to jump on or off furniture, protectively pick him up to prevent a nasty spill. Also, try to avoid dramatically re-arranging your décor so sight-challenged pups can find their way around more easily.
Many older pets can develop increased sensitivity to loud noises or cold. Combine this with cognitive and/or sensory declines, and you may notice intensified apprehension or irritability. The American Kennel Club notes that changing sleep patterns aren’t that unusual with senior dogs. Also remember that arthritis is a fairly common senior canine ailment, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. So think about treating your best buddy to a thick snuggly coat, and a nice comfy orthopedic pet bed. When you fill your pup’s drinking bowl, try using room-temperature water instead of chilled. Provide a quiet rest area, in case your furry friend needs to retreat during times of hectic activity. Want a non-invasive way to help ease daily anxiety? Lots of owners have found great success with the ThunderShirt.
Older canines experiencing kidney or digestive issues may need more frequent potty breaks. If this new schedule interferes with work, try using doggy diapers or indoor pee pads. Also remember that a reputable provider like Sparky Steps can let your pup out, encourage light activity, provide TLC, and boost mental stimulation – all at the same time. Once your canine becomes a senior, less can definitely be more. Replace rowdy romps in the backyard with tummy rubs on the couch. Invest in simple brain-stimulating toys, like the Seek-a-Treat Shuffle Bone by Ethical Pet. Remember that short strolls and moderate exercise can work wonders. Above all, treasure every moment. And If you’ve found this information helpful, be sure to share it with your favorite pet lover!
Written by Marybeth Bittel