Senior dogs are truly an absolute joy to have around. They exude a calm presence, project a sense of wisdom, and are typically extremely warm and affectionate. Senior dogs are also great companions, and to give them the quality of life that they deserve in their golden years, here are some important things to consider when caring for your senior.
How do I know if my Dog is a Senior?
The age at which a dog is considered to be a senior really depends upon the breed. Since small dogs tend to live longer (scientists still don’t understand why), a Chihuahua might be considered
a senior at around 11-12 years old. A Great Dane on the other hand, may be classified as a senior at around 5-6 years old.
If you’re unsure about your dog’s age or at what point they would be considered a senior, talk to your Vet. Even if there are no visible signs of physical deterioration, it’s a good thing to know. Your Vet may recommend preventative care supplements and recommend making changes to nutritional programs and exercise regimens.
Also, consider visiting The American Kennel Club to learn How to Calculate Dog Years to Human Years the right way.
About Senior Dog Health
Just like humans, dogs begin to slow down in their old age and the strength of their immune system begins to diminish. However, just because they are getting up there in years doesn’t mean they aren’t still capable of enjoying exercise, the great outdoors and some quality time with their humans!
As your dog ages, he becomes more susceptible to injury and diseases, particularly parasite-born diseases. To help prevent disease, make sure you stay on top of your dogs health by
ensuring they are on a heart worm preventative such as HeartGuard, or other medications such
as Frontline Plus that helps to prevent fleas, ticks, and other parasites.
Just remember, the proper doses of these preventatives are based on your dogs weight, so be sure that you are investing in the proper product based on your pets weight classification.
You should talk to your Vet about the best preventative maintenance and care for you dog.
Taking care of your dog’s teeth is extremely important as well. Periodontal disease may lead to heart disease, and it will most definitely cause pain, infections, and loose teeth. These are all things that will make your dog avoid eating, which will lead to a lack of proper nutrients they need to stay in optimal health. Schedule in a yearly dental cleaning with your Vet, and make sure to brush your dog’s teeth on a weekly basis.
To help prevent unnecessary stress on your dog’s joints, make sure and keep your dog’s weight under control. Senior dogs often have joint paint due to arthritis and other degenerative
diseases. Any extra weight will cause extreme pain and discomfort; in fact, most joint issues can be solved simply by losing weight!
If your pet is already experiencing pain in their joints or hips, you might consider an advanced supplement that contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin. There are many options for Joint & Hip Supplements than will help lubricate the joints and provide relief for your pet.
Identifying the best dog food for your senior pet is important. Not all senior dog food is created equal! Don’t settle on any old bag of dog food that is labeled for “Seniors.” Again, talk to your Vet. They are the pros at this. They’ve helped thousands of dogs live long, healthy lives and are very knowledgeable about the different breeds and their individual dietary and nutritional needs.
Daily walks and exercise are a must, but remember, your dog isn’t the spring chicken they used to be! Pay attention to your distance and pace. When they start to tire and slow down, don’t push them past their limits. Let them take breaks and don’t forget to bring along some water.
Senior dogs are at risk of boredom, which believe it or not, can lead to canine depression. Keeping your senior pet curious and entertained is important. It’s also easy to do! Just as a lot of senior adults will do crossword puzzles, word search puzzles and other games to keep their minds sharp, food puzzles are a good way to keep your pet’s mental faculties up. Take for example this Seek-A-Treat Interactive puzzle or IQ Treat Ball, using treat balls and games is a good way to help your dog stay active and keep their minds sharp.
Alzheimer’s is a real thing in senior dogs, so it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms. Also, senior dogs may display some signs of Alzheimer’s but not actually have Alzheimer’s. That is because, as they lose their vision and hearing it may cause anxiety and stress, which in turn causes them to act out behaviorally.
You can really help your dog tremendously by keeping a strict schedule. Senior dogs do better with a routine they can rely on. This includes using soothing music, aromatherapy, long walks, and even crate training to help regulate stress hormones.
Senior-Proofing the Home
Old age isn’t a disease, it’s just a stage of life to navigate. In many ways, your senior dog is like a puppy again…just a much calmer and wiser puppy!
Make sure you keep the cleaning supplies and other potential poisons out of reach. Also, keep the excess portions of electrical cords out of the way and out of reach. If you have stairs and banisters in your home, consider a gate to prevent access to the stairs and ensure your dog can’t slip through the space between the banisters causing them to fall from the second floor.
With a little extra attention, you can make their golden years a beautiful season of life.
Monitor Outdoor Time
The metabolism of older dogs changes, which in turn effects their ability to thermoregulate. Older dogs are much more sensitive to extremes in temperatures. They cannot stay outdoors in the cold or heat for extended periods of time like they used to. Keep them warm in a dog coat or keep them cool with extra shade.
Use Pet Steps or Pet Ramps
There is almost nothing sadder than seeing an old dog unable to jump up on the bed or couch. They eye the cozy comforter, you see them weighing the pros and cons and determining if they have the energy and guts for it, and sometimes—they still attempt the jump only to miss and bounce off the edge and land in an embarrassing, painful heap. It breaks your heart, and possibly one of their bones.
The solution is simple. Pet steps or ramps are sturdy and give your senior dog access to the
comfiest spot in the house again. Not all pet steps and ramps are created equal. Although there are many different models and price points, make sure you do the research (we have done a lot of that for you here) to find the best option for your dog.
Smaller, less expensive models are great for smaller dogs, but you have to be aware of the wobble and slide factor. A wobbly or plastic set of stairs that slides on tile or hardwood could cause injury to your pet that you were trying to avoid by purchasing them in the first place.
Invest in Plush, Comfortable Bedding
It’s good to put some plush towels and blankets around the house, so when your senior dog is tired and can’t walk too much further, they can curl up in a cozy corner. What’s even better is investing in several dog beds with extra padding in different rooms throughout the house. Not only will your senior appreciate the gesture, but so too will be their old bones and aching joints.
Cover Slick Surfaces
On tough surfaces or on slippery surfaces, make sure to put down soft carpeting or rugs so your dog can gain traction as they walk from room to room. Weak joints and muscle loss will send your dog sprawling more easily causing not only injury, but causing them to fear walking freely around their own home if they are afraid their legs are going to give out on them.
Another good idea is to put non-slip dog booties on your elder pet. It does wonders for their confidence and keeps them moving around the home with ease.
Senior-proofing your home with dog ramps, rugs, plush bedding, and mentally stimulating food puzzles are all good ways to add quality of life to your dog’s golden years. It will keep them feeling safe, secure, and entertained. Two Vet visits each year, including one dental cleaning, is also very important to stay on top of potential illnesses and diseases that your senior pet may be more prone to.
When you recognize the cognitive and physical declines in your senior pet, you can create a nurturing environment and choose the best food, exercises, and care practices for a happy and unique season of life.
Enjoy your dog’s golden years to the fullest! They never stop giving you their undivided love and attention, so don’t stop giving them yours.