If you have had your canine best friend for a few years, you probably know that their health needs and requirements evolve as they grow older. Just like humans, dogs also need additional tender love and care as they age.
One common characteristic shared by all senior dogs is that they begin to experience physical, behavioural, and mental health problems as they grow older. Some signs and symptoms to watch out for include cloudy eyes, bad breath, difficulty in mobility, new lumps or bumps, fluctuating weight, repetitive or compulsive behaviour, or increased anxiety. In order to accurately assess the trajectory of these symptoms, it is helpful to be familiar and aware of your dog’s everyday routine and medical history to seek the optimal course of action.
To better help you navigate this uncharted territory, we have made a comprehensive list of the best health tips to follow in order to care for your senior dog so that they remain part of your family for as long as possible.
Schedule Regular Appointments With The Vet
First things first, find a vet near you and schedule routine appointments and check-ups to avoid any sudden scares or financial burdens. This is because many diseases may go under the radar, especially if it's your first time dealing with a senior dog. Ideally, you should visit your veterinarian at least twice a year for a check-up of your senior dog.
Make sure to request a full physical examination on your vet visits and ask for any vaccinations that may be important for your dog’s health. Before going to the vet, we suggest noting down any and all concerns that you might have, which could include behavioural changes such as excessive drinking of water, or lack of activity. These insights will help the vet gain a holistic view in order to come up with the best course of treatment.
You may also want to consider taking a urine and stool sample in case you notice inconsistencies in your dog’s bowel movements. By paying close attention to your senior dog’s health concerns, you can really make a difference to improve his overall quality of life.
Watch Out For Health Problems In Senior Dogs
Some common health problems in senior dogs include dental disease, osteoarthritis, obesity, cancer, hearing and vision loss, kidney disease, heart issues, muscle twitching, and hypothyroidism. Since older dogs are prone to a host of illnesses, it is important to keep track of their physical health or behavioural changes so that you can brief your vet during your visit.
Other conditions that older dogs are susceptible to include Cushing’s disease, which involves an excessive production of the stress hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands. Common symptoms include increased water intake and urination, thin skin, panting, increased appetite, lethargy, and recurrent skin and urinary infections. It is most common in Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Boston Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Boxers, and Dachshund breeds.
In order to help manage Cushing’s disease, some vets may recommend melatonin for dogs, a natural treatment that helps reduce their cortisol levels. But you need to discuss this with your vet first to ensure it is appropriate for your dog and, if so, the dosage recommended, which will usually depend on your dog’s blood work following a thorough medical examination.
Maintain A Healthy Diet
Senior dogs generally require fewer calories than younger dogs or puppies, which means that their dietary requirements change as they grow older. This is particularly noteworthy since a geriatric dog is prone to having a slower metabolic rate and a higher chance of becoming overweight or obese.
Some important things to keep in mind is that while your dog needs less fats in his diet, he still need lots of fibre and protein to maintain gastrointestinal health and ideal body weight, respectively. Similarly, your senior dog will greatly benefit from a low-sodium diet and an increased water intake since older dogs tend to become very thirsty.
Additionally, you can fortify your senior dog’s nutrition with fatty acids that include DHA and EPA in order to prevent joint diseases such as arthritis.
If your dog is ill or suffers from a specific medical condition, it is recommended that you draw up a specific diet plan after consulting with your vet to ensure that your canine friend gets the right nutrients tailored to his requirements.
Take Care Of Your Senior Dog’s Hygiene And Grooming
It is important not to get complacent while maintaining your dog’s hygiene and grooming as he ages. In this regard, dental care is particularly important as senior dogs may be prone to periodontal disease. To avoid this, brush their teeth regularly at home using dog toothpaste.
In addition to maintaining his oral health, bathe your senior dog in lukewarm water using natural dog shampoo, ideally every two to three weeks. You should also check your dog for ticks or fleas, and notice if the coat is brittle, dry, or flaky and report any peculiarities to your vet. Make sure you also trim your dog’s nails as long nails can cause him considerable discomfort. Lastly, in order to avoid matted hair, consider professional grooming services and help maintain that by gently brushing your dog’s hair using a dog brush or comb.
Make Sure They Get Enough Exercise
Most older dogs are less mobile and active than they used to be when they were younger. However, you should encourage them by regularly taking them out for walks and playing with them to maintain their weight and overall physical and mental health through regular daily exercise for at least one hour.
Since older dogs have less energy, it is important not to force them into running or exercising more than they can handle. This means getting accustomed to recognising their physical limits and appreciating their efforts through positive reinforcements such as giving treats and petting them. You should also keep in mind that older dogs may find it difficult to carry out athletic activities, such as jumping or running over long periods. This means that you should facilitate them with age-appropriate exercise activities by taking them out on walks or light jogs.
As a natural process, ageing is a rewarding experience that instils a maturity and deeper bond between you and your dog. Cherish your dogs and know that they are fiercely loyal companions who will always stand by you no matter what.
We wish you all the best in taking care of your senior dog!