Caring for your senior dog with age-related issues

For us, our dogs will always be our babies but eventually, the day will come when they pant a little faster, walk a little slower and sleep more often.

Our senior dogs can mimic the same problems humans face as they get older. Heart disease, vision problems, arthritis and diabetes are some common problems senior dogs suffer from.

But thanks to modern medicine and advances in pet healthcare products, extending the lifespan of our dogs has become easier and more accessible. Incorporating healthy habits and food in the early stages of their life is helpful to them in their old age.
When is a dog considered senior?
This depends on your dog’s size and breed. For example- small dogs like Chihuahuas aren’t considered to be seniors until the age of 10 or 12 but a Great Dane would reach old age by the age of 5 or 6. Apart from their size and breed, genetics, environment and diet also play a role in determining their life expectancy. Once they attain their senior status, you need to adopt a different routine and lifestyle for them. Here are some things you can do to help your senior dog:

Frequent vet visits
Visiting the vet at least twice a year is a must. Frequent check-ups from the vet can ensure early detection of any health conditions and ensure your pet is in perfect condition. Senior dogs are often prone to problems like hip dysplasia, arthritis, diabetes and cancer. Early detection of these problems can help their treatment.

Maintain a healthy diet
Obesity is a common problem in senior dogs. Managing obesity-related issues along with the problems that come with old age can become arduous. Add these foods to your pet’s diet to keep them healthy:
1. Foods high in omega 3s like fish and yolks
2. Bone broth to strengthen bones and provide joint support
3. Probiotics to help digest and absorb nutrients better
4. Fish oil or glucosamine

You can also consult a vet for a customized diet plan that would suit your senior dog’s dietary requirements.

Slowing down along with old age is normal but being inactive is not. Encourage your dog to get a little exercise but be careful not to overdo it. Go for gentle and less strenuous walks every day and monitor their breathing and gait while doing so. Keeping their senses active is important for their mental health, so change the route of your daily walks, this way they can smell new surroundings. Introduce new toys like food puzzles to stimulate their brain. Swimming is also a great exercise for senior dogs as water provides support and doesn’t put much strain on your pet’s joints.

Care for their aching joints
Arthritis is the most common problem older dogs suffer from. You can choose supplements to boost their bone health. Although there are many pain killers for dogs, opt for holistic approaches and alternative treatments that relieve your dog’s pain without any side effects. Cannabis Leaf Extract Oil is a natural, safe and therapeutic way to relieve the pain in their joints. It is especially beneficial for dogs with hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Homeopathy, Bach Flower Therapy, Physical Therapy, Hydrotherapy like swimming, Acupuncture and massages are some alternative treatments that can help ease your senior dog’s pain.

At home, you can place warm towels on their aching joints or give massages where it hurts.
Some senior dogs also benefit from orthopedic beds.

Senior-proof your house
Just like you once puppy-proofed your house, you now need to make adjustments to your house to make it senior-proof. Some senior dogs may face problems with vision, hearing and mobility. Block off staircases for them to avoid accidents, place rubber mats or carpet runners on slippery surfaces and invest in special ramps or stairs for them to climb easily.

Extra grooming sessions
Senior dogs find it harder to groom themselves. Help them with their grooming, regular brushing of the coat can help spread the natural oils throughout their coat and it is also a great way to check for new lumps, bumps, cuts or scratches. This way you can also spend more quality time with them.

Dental hygiene
Dogs become more prone to oral infections as they get older. Dental diseases can affect your dog’s heart and kidneys. Hence, it is important to maintain dental hygiene by regular brushing and professional cleaning. Brush your dog’s teeth with a pet-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste, never put your fingers inside your dog’s mouth. Choose a brushless way like a dental spray if your dog doesn’t enjoy brushing.

Keep them happy
- Take extra efforts to not let the old-age lethargy get to your pet. If your dog enjoys socializing, arrange playdates with dogs of other ages. Watching a young puppy jump around can encourage them to be happy and play.

- Take them on special outings, an adventurous drive maybe or a new neighbourhood for your walk or a visit to a relative’s house.

- Keep their mind sharp and stimulated by teaching them new tricks. Yes, your dog can still learn some new tricks.

- Play more games to keep them active and provide an outlet to utilize their energy within their limitations.

Pay more attention
Monitor their changes in appetite, behavior and weight. Look out for dental issues or any bumps, lumps or lesions, call your veterinarian if you notice anything unusual. Pay more attention by also giving them your time and love. Time spent together with you is what your senior dog would cherish the most.

Inputs by Dr. Sonal Rane, Senior Veterinary Officers,

Always keep an ID tag on your pet. Consider getting your pet microchipped as well to help identify him if he is lost or stolen.

End of the article

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