23 Mar

Want To Be Amazing At Taking Care of Your Older Dog? Here’s How

old dog

An irrefutable fact of life is that all living creatures age with the passage of time. Your once cute little puppy is no different and as it transforms into a senior, things definitely won’t be the same.

Just as in humans, the care and attention required by older dogs differ from those of younger ones. It is therefore necessary to arm yourself with dog care facts that will enable you help your make the later years of your aging dog’s life graceful and comfortable.

At what age does your dog become a senior?

There is no clear cut age from which a dog would be considered a senior. This would depend largely on the breed of the dog, nutrition and environment in which it lives. Smaller breeds tend to live longer years than larger ones while overweight dogs have shorter life spans than their lighter mates.

The table below gives a general overview of the age of dogs compared to that of humans:

Dog Years

Weight

Equivalent Human Years

7

Below 20 lbs -50 lbs

44-47

Over 51lbs

50-56

10

Below 20 lbs -50 lbs

56-60

Over 51lbs

66-78

15

Below 20 lbs -50 lbs

76-83

Over 51lbs

93-115

20

Below 20 lbs -50 lbs

96-105

Over 51lbs

120

Possible signs of old age in dogs

As your dog gets older, you will certainly observe some changes in its health, appearance and behavior. You need to be observant enough to notice these changes and seek veterinary assistance when necessary.

Behavioral changes

A change in normal behavioral pattern is one of the earliest signs you are likely to observe as your dog ages. Its sleep pattern may change or it could become more aggressive or irritable. You may also notice a slight slowness in movement or in responding to your calls or commands. Other behavioral changes in ageing dogs may include:

  • Decreased willingness to interact with humans
  • Bed wetting and decreased bowel control (incontinence)
  • Loss of concentration
  • Increased reaction to sounds
  • Increased vocalization
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Decreased self-hygiene/grooming
  • Repetitive activity
  • Increased wandering

Health Problems

Health conditions could crop up as a result of old age. The table below shows common health problems in older dogs and the related signs and symptoms:

Health Problem Symptoms
Cancer
  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or discharge from body openings
  • Offensive mouth odor
  • Difficulty eating/swallowing
  • Hesitation to exercise/loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness/stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
Arthritis
  • Limping
  • Difficulty sitting or standing
  • Difficulty in movement
  • Sleeping more
  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased activity or interest in play
  • Increased irritability
  • Being less alert
Kidney Disease
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Decreased or no urination
  • Poor hair coat
  • Vomiting
  • Sore mouth
Heart disease
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Decreased tolerance of exercise
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
Urinary tract disease
  • Increased urination
  • Bed wetting or spotting in the house
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Blood in urine
  • Weakness

Other common health problems in older dogs include:

  • Obesity
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Joint or bone disease
  • Senility

OLDER DOG CARE TIPS

Diet & Nutrition

Due to aging, the digestive system of your dog will not be as effective as it used to be and its tolerance level is reduced. Therefore, its diet should consist of higher quality and easily digestible food.

You dog’s need for higher quality food increases. You should therefore invest in premium food brands that contain higher quality proteins, omega 3, antioxidants, alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and other essential supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin.

Older dogs that have specific health conditions will require specialized diets as recommended by your vet. For example dogs with heart diseases would need diets that are low in sodium.

Health and hygiene

  • Older dogs are more susceptible to health problems due to reduced immunity and it is recommended that you take your dog for a checkup with your vet at least every 6 months.
  • Carrying regular blood screening and urinalysis can help to detect potential health problems.
  • Older dogs will generally require fewer vaccinations. Check with your vet for appropriate vaccination schedule.
  • Engaging your dog in mentally stimulating activities is beneficial for good mental health.
  • To prevent prostate cancer, testicular or other reproductive diseases, get your dog neutered or spayed.
  • Ageing dogs spend more time lying down or sleeping resulting in thinning skin or scalding. This increases the possibility of skin irritation and infections. More attention should therefore be paid to their coat care. Coats should be clipped and combed regularly.
  • Due to reduced mobility your older dog’s toe nail will wear out less quickly and will result in longer toenails which should be clipped more frequently.
  • Good oral hygiene is essential for dog care as well as keeping the ears clean.
  • Dogs with longer coats should be treated to a massage at least once a week.

Exercises

  • Weight management through a combination of exercises and a good diet are important for your dog. Engage her in moderate walking and other light exercises to maintain healthy muscles and joints. The exercises should be determined by the level of tolerance of your dog.
  • Visiting an off-leash dog park may not be ideal for as the environment may not be conducive for its age.

Home Environment

  • Make a variety of smooth and soft toys available for your older dog to keep her entertained and active.
  • Your dog will demand a greater amount of care and attention. Set out time to provide the same level of interaction and care that it has always had. Your friend will always cherish your reassuring hugs and tender touch.
  • Hard or smooth floor surfaces should be carpeted if possible to ease movement. Your dog may find it more difficult climbing stairs, so you may need to provide a ramp.
  • Some older dog may require special orthopedic dog beds for more comfortable sleep.

If you need assistance with your older dog when you get busy, Saint Louis Dog Walkers, a local dog walking and pet sitting service, can help. We provide exercise, companionship, pet sitting, and potty breaks. Check out our pet services page for more information.

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