You will be making a big mistake if you think old dogs have the same care requirements as younger dogs. There is a huge difference. In fact, caring for an elderly dog requires a little more attention than you think.
But how fast a dog ages depends on the individual dog. Generally, giant breeds grow old more quickly than smaller breed dogs. So you can consider a Great Dane to be a senior from age 5-6. But smaller breeds like the Chihuahua may still be categorized as middle-aged then, probably considered a senior from age 10-11. Then the large breed dogs like the Golden Retriever become a senior by 8-10 years of age.
So, there are lots of factors that could determine how fast your dog ages. Factors like diet, genetics, nutrition, and the environment play a significant role - the more reason why you should learn about the best care for old dogs. Apart from keeping your dogs comfortable in their later years, proper care can keep them healthy, helping you save more money at the vet.
What are those changes you’d observe in old dogs?
When you notice your once spry playmate becomes less-interested in jumping after tennis balls. Some gray fur becomes prominent on the snout of your black lab. And your brisk walks with your dog turn into some strolls. Then, you should know that your dog is becoming a “senior.”
Also, as a dog ages, their ears and eyes become less active, and they become more prone to age-related health problems like kidney disease, arthritis, weight gain, and cancer. More so, they become reluctant to go up and down the stair or jump in and out of the car. They may also have difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position.
So as you begin to notice these changes highlighted above in your dog, you need to start taking the necessary steps to keep your old dog healthy.
Here are some helpful tips on how to best care for old dogs:
1. Feed your old dog with an age-appropriate diet
Dogs need a balanced diet for good health, even as they age. So it is essential that you find the best dog food that contains all the necessary nutrients that are needed by old dogs.
Remember, older dogs are more at risk of developing obesity because they have lower levels of energy. So, find a special food that doesn’t promote weight gain; foods that have fewer calories and are low in fat, complementing the nutritional need of your old dog.
However, if you notice that your dog is suffering from a condition, ensure you consult your vet to know if there’s a need to design a special food for your senior dog.
2. Schedule regular vet visits
You need to take regular vet care seriously as your dog ages. Yea, because at this stage, your dog’s immune system becomes weaker, and they become prone to all sorts of ailments.
Most vet advice taking older dogs for regular checkups once every six months. This way, your vet will be able to figure out any condition earlier enough and provide prompt treatment to keep your dog healthy.
3. Keep exercising
Like every human, dogs also need to exercise regularly to maintain an ideal weight and improve their overall health.
However, note that as your dog ages, they might not be frisky or jump they way they used to, and they may not chase after Frisbee the usual way, but don’t stop keeping them moving. Apart from helping to maintain a healthy weight, exercise also helps a great deal to keep their joints healthy and mental stimulation going.
So be easy on your old dog. Start slowly and help your old dog build stamina with regular walks and light jogs.
If your old dog has a health condition, you can talk to your vet about a recommended exercise program that will be suitable for your dog.
4. Give your old dog the right vaccination and parasite protection
Your old dog is also likely to get attacked by tick, flea and worm. So, ensure you continue administering proper treatment just like when they were younger.
But note that old dogs do not require vaccination at the same interval as younger ones. Usually, they require vaccines once every three years. However, try to talk to your vet to know what’s best for your dog’s individual needs.
5. Spend time with your pup
You don’t have to leave your dog all alone because it is growing old. NO! Aging is just a normal stage in life, and you should enjoy and cherish every moment with your pooch. Remember all the good memories you’ve shared.
Besides, some dogs can become terrified or anxious when they don’t sense their owner around. A good example is a geriatric dog. It can become highly terrified.
So ensure you spend quality time with your old dog every day, even when they cannot hear or see you clearly. This way, you’ll help them stay mentally and emotionally healthy.
6. Provide special accommodations
Don’t forget that your dog may not be able to jump on their bed or sofa at night as they grow old, especially if they have sight issues. So you can provide an easily accessible bed and soft bedding that won’t stress them.
Also, your old dog may find it hard to go up and down the stairs, so if they have to use the stairs, you can build a doggy ramp to ease their movement, or simply restrict their access to the stairs.
That means you’ll have to move your dog’s water and food bowls, as well as their bed downstairs.
More so, you can place rugs and carpers around the house if your dog is arthritic, to help them gain their footing and ease their movement.
7. Help them stay clean always
Your dog’s coat and skin grow old with your dog. And it’s once luxurious, and shiny coat may become dull looking and brittle. Your dog’s skin can also become dry, flaky, and irritated, which may become worse if you don’t groom them regularly.
Hence, ensure you brush your dog daily, especially to avoid the development of mats and tangles. You can also use shampoos, but ensure they are the natural types that will heal and nourish irritated coat and skin.