I used to laugh – two of my friend’s dogs had gotten old and tired, and would curl up together on their beds in the corner of the living room. When someone came knocking at the door, they would lift their heads and look back over their shoulders and bark, but were too tired to actually get up and go to the door to bark at them. I think their attack days were over, but bless their hearts, they were still trying.
They did both outlive their children though – must have been the fresh country air where they lived.
Most dog owners will tell you that time flies when you own a dog. It seems like it was just yesterday that their dog was just an adorable little puppy, and now after 7 years or so, that little furball has become older and slower and you can see them aging. This is a bittersweet experience that can be traumatic to some owners. But it’s just part and parcel of owning a dog.
So how can you help your precious friend with aging? Here are some of the issues you may face, and what you can do about them.
Signs of Aging in Dogs
As your dog ages, you’ll notice that he has less energy and enthusiasm. He plays less often and doesn’t want to walk around as much. This is normal. You’ll also notice that your dog even looks older. Her face and paws may be graying. Her coat may not be as glossy as it used to be and she may seem stiffer when she gets up after sleeping.
Generally, dogs show the same symptoms as humans do when they age. They’re more prone to frequent urination. They may have weaker bladders that lead to indoor accidents. Some dogs may be more sensitive to loud noises and may experience anxiety. Hearing and eyesight may be adversely affected, too. Your dog may not respond when you call it simply because it didn’t hear you.
When it comes to bladder control the most important thing is that you MUST have patience. It can be exasperating when your dog keeps having indoor accidents – but you don’t want to raise your voice at him. He knows better, but he can’t help it. You’d be better off getting disposable dog diapers. You must understand that any training may not work because this is an age-related health issue, and not due to a lack of obedience. So please don’t get mad at your dog. Remember, even at this age, he wants nothing more than to please you.
While your dog may not be as active as she used to be, it will help to take her for short walks so she will get some movement in her daily life. Shorter durations with increased frequency are better than one long walk a day. The exercise your dog gets will help with blood circulation and weight management, which is even more important as they age. Do remember to bring a water bottle for your dog. She will get thirsty.
Many dogs experience arthritis and joint pain as they get older. Being at an ideal weight will make it easier on their joints. You can also gently massage your dog once or twice a day to help ease the pain.
It’s these little things that will make a world of difference to your dog’s well-being.
Some vets say it’s ok to give your dog some aspirin for joint pain, while some say not to give human medications to an animal. However, there are specific pain medications made for dogs. If your dog seems to be in a lot of pain with his stiff joints, talk to your vet.
You might also check into natural pain killers for dogs, such as turmeric. CDB oil has also been used on dogs for arthritis and other problems associated with aging.
If you live in a colder climate, you should get a coat for your dog to keep him warm. Older dogs have more difficulty regulating their body temperature.
Many times, you’ll need to see what limitations your dog has and take steps accordingly. For example, if your dog is unable to bend well, you could use an elevated dog feeder to ease the feeding process, or install ramps to help with getting up stairs or on and off the bed.
Being aware of your dog’s needs will help you understand what actions you need to take to assist him.
- Let him spend more time in the shade when you’re out on walks. If you see him panting excessively, it’s time to stop.
- You’ll want to walk your dog on paths that are softer so that it’s easier on the paws. Walking on earth or grass is better than a hot road.
- Change the route often so that your pet has new sights and sounds to observe. This will stimulate his mind and keep him interested.
- Pay attention to your dog’s diet. Offer food that’s gentler on the stomach. Ideally, homemade meals will be much better than commercially-sold dog food which contain additives and preservatives.
- Ensure the diet is meeting your dog’s nutritional requirements. There are special foods and special considerations for senior dogs.
- Regular grooming will be important, too. Your dog’s coat will tend to be drier and will need brushing daily to keep the fur from getting matted and/or tangled up.
Regular Vet Visits
It’s crucial to bring your dog to the vet for check ups at least twice a year. This is the bare minimum. For an older dog, a visit to the vet once every 3 or 4 months is better. Your vet will inform you if it’s time for any vaccinations or if there is a need for any dental care. Good oral health is important and should not be neglected just because the dog is aging. Your vet will also be on the lookout for any issues related to aging, along with general health issues.
By now you’ll realize that caring for an older dog is not necessarily a walk in the park. You will have more responsibilities and it will be an emotional experience. There will be highs and lows for both you and your dog, but that’s what makes the journey so rewarding. Do whatever you need to do to make your older dog feel safe, comfortable and loved. I know you will.