How to Care for Your Aging Dog – 7 Health Considerations
Is your dog a senior citizen?
Unfortunately, aging is an unavoidable reality of life. Our beloved pets may age sooner than we’d like them to – and as a result, they may not be as healthy as they used to be. Just like us, dogs can develop age-related conditions as they grow older.
It’s crucial to provide proper care for our pets as they reach their golden years. If your aging dog receives the right care and treatment, he or she can live for many more happy and fulfilled years.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Elderly?
Your dog’s true age depends upon the typical lifespan of their size and breed.
Some dogs, particularly the giant breeds, become seniors after as early as 6 years. Other breeds, such as miniature breeds, become seniors after as much as 10 to 12 years.
Speak to your veterinarian if you want to know when your dog would be considered a senior.
7 Health Considerations for Your Older Dog
Watch for signs that your dog is experiencing pain or difficulty. If you’re not sure whether your pet has a condition associated with old age, it’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian.
- Sensitivity to the Cold
Particularly in the winter, you want to make sure your older dog is protected from the cold.
Try using a sweater or waterproof coat and boots for walks in colder weather. You can also give your pet a warm water foot bath when you get home, especially if you’re coming in from snowy, slushy, salty conditions.
As it is with people, pets lose their hearing as they age. However, a hearing aid isn’t practical for a dog.
If you call your dog and they don’t hear you, try clapping your hands to get their attention. When you enter the house, stomp your feet so your dog feels the floor vibrate, and won’t be startled. Be patient with your aging pet!
- Decreased Sight
Like your dog’s hearing, eyesight may also suffer with age.
People routinely have cataract surgery, and a younger dog with cataracts may undergo surgery, but this is often not the case with older dogs. A senior dog’s condition may worsen regardless of surgery and surgery will cause unnecessary stress.
If your dog is having trouble seeing you, you can wave your hands and create more movement for their eyes to register.
If you take a dog with poor vision for a walk at night, bring a flashlight to illuminate the sidewalk a few feet ahead for them.
- Aches and Pains
Older dogs may develop arthritic conditions and other chronic pains. You may notice your dog become quieter, withdrawn, or less active if they are experiencing chronic pain – the signs are not always easy to spot.
If you think your dog may be suffering from aches and pains, the most important thing to do is go to your veterinarian for an exam. Find out about the arthritis and pain management treatments available.
Furthermore, be sure to provide your aging dog with a soft bed for resting and sleeping. Foam tends to work well.
High quality pet food can drastically impact the quality of your dog’s life in his or her later years. Certain foods are designed for pets with specific conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
Senior dogs have significantly different nutritional requirements than their younger counterparts. Make sure you are feeding your dog the right food for their advanced age.
Even if your dog has trouble being active, you should ensure they receive some exercise as they age to maintain their muscle mass. Simply take your dog for good, long daily leash walks (without any running, yanking, or sudden turns!).
Older dogs generally have more matting in their coat, and their nails may grow too long and break if they aren’t walking as much. Be sure to take care of the coat with regular brushing and grooming, and make sure their nails do not grow too long.
With any pet, you want to discover health problems as soon as possible. When dealing with an older pet, who is more likely to develop a condition due to their advanced age, regular vet visits cannot be neglected.
Bring your older dog in to the vet at least once per year for an annual physical examination and blood screen to find problems before your dog gets sick. And if your dog seems sick or in pain in between visits, please call us for an appointment!
These easy things will improve the quality of your dog’s final years and let you fully enjoy the rest of your time together.
>> Clarkson Village Animal Hospital will be happy to assess your older dog and make recommendations to maximize his or her health. Make your appointment now.
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