Your senior dog has given you a great many years of companionship and who wouldn’t want to make sure that their later years are as comfortable as possible?
How do you know if your dog is classed as ‘senior’? This will vary depending on the breed as dogs mature at different rates. In general, though, the larger the dog, the faster they mature.
Basically, if your dog is seven years old or older, they are approaching old age and may be experiencing a decline in health and vitality. It’s very important, therefore, that your pet receives the appropriate level of exercise, the right nutrition and veterinary care at this stage of their life.
Signs of an Ageing Dog
So what signs should you look out for?
Like humans, even if they are otherwise healthy, an older dog will generally have a decrease in their energy levels. Perhaps they will nap more or tire quicker.
You may notice that your pet is stiff after play or when getting up after sleeping. How do you know whether this discomfort is just normal wear and tear or the beginnings of arthritis or an injury? If your dog seems to loosen up after mild activity it’s probably just ageing but if he seems to feel worse as time goes on then you should take him to the vet for a checkup.
You can help your older dog by making sure that their sleeping quarters are as comfortable as possible. Take a look at some of the dog beds on the market as you can find bedding specially designed to relieve the pressure on aching joints and limbs. These are often made of memory foam with removable and machine washable covers in the event of any little accidents.
It’s still important to take your dog for regular walks to avoid weight gain and arthritis but make sure that you don’t overdo it. Aim for one or two leisurely walks a day and some gentle sessions of play. Don’t forget to keep your pet well-hydrated especially in hot weather.
As they age, older dogs have different nutritional needs. Make sure your dog food is formulated to help with any age-related conditions. Generally, good senior dog foods will have fewer calories and enough protein, vitamins and minerals to help your dog’s coat and teeth stay strong and healthy.
As your dog gets older and his metabolism slows down, you may notice that he starts to gain weight. Here’s a simple test you can do to check whether he is overweight. Put your hands on his backbone and feel for his ribcage. If you can’t feel it, chances are your dog needs to shed a few pounds. Talk to your vet about adjusting your dog’s diet with a food that is lower in fat and calories.
Now more than ever it is important that you maintain a regular schedule of visits to your vet. In addition to regular vaccinations, ask whether your vet offers an annual or six monthly geriatric screening.
By adapting the way you care for your older dog, you’ll help your pet stay happy and comfortable for many years to come.