Even with all the love in the world, it is inevitable that your furry companion will get older. Don’t be sad! While it is understandable that many pet parents find this realization difficult to deal with, it is not good to ignore the fact that your boy is aging. All dogs age, but it’s how you handle the process that will determine his quality of life during the later years.
Even though it may not be immediately noticeable in a healthy dog, it’s important to recognize the signs of aging so you can take the necessary steps to keep him comfortable. On average, dogs reach old age around seven to ten years old which depends on the breed and size of a dog — smaller dogs typically age slower than medium sized and larger dogs. So, if your dog is getting a little gray or white around the snoot, read on for important things to know when it comes to caring for a senior dog, then take action to maintain quality of life and happiness.
1. Visible Signs of Aging
While this may not be completely noticeable, a dog will slow down physically with age over time. And since developing stiff joints is a common sign of aging, watch for changes in the way she lays down, gets up, walks, and runs. Graying around the face area, particularly the muzzle and whiskers, starts at five to six years old, “doggie middle age.” However, some dogs will prematurely gray at a younger age just as some humans do!
2. Senior Health Issues
A common senior dog health issue is arthritis, particularly in large breeds, and can occur in any joint but mostly appear in the legs, neck, and spine. Cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease are a few more health problems older dogs can develop and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Deteriorating mental health is also a concern and should be stimulated through human and animal interaction like light play, singing, petting, and talking. Contact your veterinarian about medications and treatments available to help ease the discomfort of these doggie health issues and others.
3. Body Temperature Changes
An older dog may encounter poor blood circulation, therefore he might get cold quicker than usual. Watch to see if your dog is shivering or trying to curl up in warm spots of the house when he did not used to. Hug him throughout the day — not just to show your love — to check if he is chilly. Cover him so he keeps warm and know that with age also comes longer sleep times. On the other hand, an older dog’s body temperature can be more sensitive to heat and humidity which can lead to overheating.
4. Nutrition Changes
According to veterinarian and senior pet health expert, Dr. Ernie Ward, “Feeding your pet the proper nutrition in their senior years….is critical to helping them fight the signs of aging and keeping them active and playful.” An older dog might start eating less, begin having problems eating crunchy food, or could become obese. Check with your vet for the best brand or foods for your senior dog, or consider looking into a holistic approach to a healthy dog diet and food.
5. Grooming is Necessary
Grooming is particularly important for older dogs. Regular brushing keeps a doggie coat and skin from becoming too dry and will help to remove natural debris from areas they are having difficulties reaching. Brushing will also help in locating any possible abnormalities such as lumps or tumors that should be reported to your veterinarian immediately. Nails wear down less with age and, to prevent discomfort, might need to be trimmed more often than when walks were daily.
6. Scheduling Regular Exams
You may not have needed to take your dog in for vet check-ups regularly when she was younger and healthy, but it becomes increasingly important as she gets into those senior years. Along with regular physical exams, remember to have her teeth and mouth checked out and cleaned. It is very important to periodically brush her teeth at home or at the vet as neglected senior dog teeth can lead to dog dental problems like terrible bad breath, gingivitis, and periodontitis.
Green Monsters: Share your experiences caring for senior dogs with us and other readers in the comments section below!
Image source: Paul Kline/Flickr
The best thing you can do for your senior dog is give him lots and lots of exercise EVERY DAY when he\’s younger. Take him for a hike, let him swim in a pond, roll in mud, trot along a forest trail off leash. It\’s good for pretty much everything that ails \’em.
We\’ve just reached the point where our boy can\’t even walk a mile without being in a lot of pain. I haven\’t walked him in the last 2 days so that he can rest and recover and it\’s killing me. I just remember to make sure he knows he is loved.
We adopted a senior dog, and she\’s very lame. Everyone we talked to recommended Cosaquin (it\’s a Glucosamine supplement for joint lubrication). It works very well. Kelley, you should try it. You can buy a bottle of it on Amazon fairly inexpensively.