As our furry friends begin to see the effects of old age, there are certain things that we, as pet owners, are responsible for. You need to help your aging dog by providing them with ways to age gracefully by paying closer attention to their health and needs as they enter their senior years.
Help your aging dog: Regulate body temperature
As your dog ages, their ability to regulate their own body temperature becomes more difficult.
If you are used to summer hikes in the peak of the afternoon, you may need to rethink your approach before heading out the door. If there is a nearby water source, get your aging dog wet both before and after the hike/walk to keep them cool. Additionally, pack along a doggie water bottle to keep them hydrated throughout the day.
In the winter, smaller dogs may require a sweater to ward off the shivers when going out to use the facili-trees.
If you have a larger dog that spends long periods outside, consider installing a dog house with a heated blanket to help your aging dog stay comfortable and warm. If you decide to utilize your outdoor fireplace, don’t leave it unattended. Older dogs have been known to curl up close to them and singe their hair without even realizing it.
Help your aging dog: Sleep issues
If you are like most dog owners, you found it to be incredibly cute when your dog would snore as a puppy. It is still cute when they get older, but it does, however, become an area of concern. This is particularly true for short-nosed dogs such as bulldogs and terriers. Such small dogs were actually the source for the development of the CPAP machine that humans now use to treat sleep apnea.
Dogs can also develop sleep apnea, which causes a dog to stop breathing as they get older. If you notice your aging dog experiences interruptions in breathing either when napping or sleeping at night, contact your vet to explore your options as soon as you notice that it is happening. Keep your eyes out for other issues in their sleep, such as incontinence. Alternatively, if your dog is having trouble sleeping, it could be an indication of undetected pain or other medical issues.
Help your aging dog: Pain management
The hard part about having a pet is that they can’t simply tell you if they are not feeling at their best. There are numerous signs that your pet may be experiencing some pain within their bodies: excessive mouth watering, heightened anxiety, dilated pupils or fear-based growling. The pain could be as minimal as a cracked paw pad or something internal that you are unable to see. If your dog is experiencing pain, you obviously want to try and take steps to make them as comfortable as possible.
Spending time in the water can help relieve some of the pressure on your aging dog’s joints if the pain is caused by arthritis. If you don’t have your own pool, take your dog to a nearby lake or river and let him get a nice float in.
If your dog is starting to lose his eyesight or experience the onset of dementia, he can experience pain if he runs into walls or trips. Try your best to store their toys in a permanent spot and avoid moving furniture around to prevent accidents. If the pain is persistent and obviously causing your dog discomfort, your vet can prescribe pain medication to put him at ease.
Help your aging dog: Nutritional needs
Just like humans, as your dog grows into their golden years, their nutritional needs and diet will change. In their older years, they are more susceptible to kidney disease, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Feeding them a well-balanced diet will help them to fend off such illnesses. A senior dog’s diet will consist of the following:
- Fewer calories
- Higher protein
- Lower sodium
- Fewer carbohydrates
Often, senior diets will have higher amounts of antioxidants, prebiotics and probiotics to help maintain a healthy digestive tract. If your dog does suffer from a medical condition, consult your vet to establish a healthy diet for your pet.
Caring for your aging dog doesn’t have to be a challenge. Preventative healthcare can go a long way in preserving your pet’s quality of life. As they enter into their later years, offer the best that you can to keep them safe and comfortable — in return, you will continue to receive all that unconditional love.
– Noah Rue