Advances in vet science means our dogs are living longer. Like humans, old age in dogs brings with it noticeable signs and changes. Here you can discover what you can do to ensure your dog’s senior years are happy and comfortable.
The Signs and Symptoms of Ageing in Dogs
Over time, your dog will show visible signs of ageing, similar to the signs we show as we age. For instance, your dog’s fur will fade and turn grey, they will lose physical flexibility and their once-sharp reflexes will slow down. The sense of hearing, sight, and smell weakens and they are not as energetic as they used to be. In fact the foremost sign of aging is generalised decline in actions and movements, and older pets sleep longer and deeper. These signs may show up before 8 years in Great Danes and other large breeds, however in smaller breeds they may not show until they are significantly older, due to a longer life expectancy.
An indoor healthy dog will age later as compared to a dog that roams outside in open environment where disease exposure is far greater. Similar to humans, the ageing process varies from dog to dog. Your vet is the person to talk to about signs of ageing.
Visit the Vet Twice a Year
The older the dog, the more important it is to go for regular checkups. When a dog becomes old, it is recommended to see a veterinarian for examination every 6 months, as an adult dog ages up to 3 years in human terminology with the passage of one calendar year. Along with a physical examination, a urine and faecal analysis may also be performed. A full blood profile screening test is also recommended in many cases.
Notify Your Vet Regularly
You should always consult your vet regarding any visible physical and behavioural changes. Sometimes you may link it as a sign of getting old but in reality it might be a problem that requires medical attention. For instance, if your dog loses interest in playing, you might put it down to age, but the underlying reason may be arthritis.
By keeping in touch with your vet and visiting whenever you notice changes, you can avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort for your dog and for you too. You can also help with early detection of disease and ailments that could otherwise be life threatening.
Ensure your Dog has a Healthy, Balanced Diet
As age increases, the nutritional demands vary. Your pet may be eating less than normal but is gaining weight. This can be a sign of decline in metabolic rates or decreases in physical activity. Obesity can lead to many serious health issues in dogs such as heart, respiratory, skin problems and joints pain. To help your dog reduce weight, feed him small portions of food in intervals and choose food options with low calories. Some dogs start losing weight as they get old because of a disease related to the heart, dental issues, or diabetes and it can attributed to declines in their sense of taste, that puts dogs off food altogether. Whatever the issue regarding diet and weight, consult your vet for proper guidance to meet your dog’s nutritional demands.
Make it Easy for your Dog to Eat
Make sure your dog is comfortable when eating. Typically food and water dishes are placed on the ground, however it can prove difficult for an older dog experiencing difficulty bending. For such dogs, feeding tables are ideal and are available from pet suppliers. These tables are especially designed for feeding pets. Choose a feeding table to suit your dog’s size.
Similarly, if you do not want to spend extra money, use your imagination. For example, a plastic crate covered with a suitable cloth to soak up spills can work just as well as an expensive feeding table.
Do’s and Don’ts for Senior Dog Diets
- Avoid a diet high in proteins and high in minerals, ask your vet to recommend diet for your old dog.
- You may need to increase the fibre content in your dog’s diet if your dog frequently suffers from constipation. Take advice from your vet.
- Avoid giving your senior dog munchies and table left overs.
The Best 10 Health Advice for Senior Dogs
- See the vet for a check-up once every six months – twice each year.
- Gain all necessary information regarding common diseases in old dogs and their symptoms, so you can recognise the signs and consult the vet right away.
- Feed your dog the best possible options you can manage and afford. One large meal a day is not suitable for old dogs. Instead, switch to several small meals a day.
- Do not over feed your dog. Obesity is behind many serious health issues and decreases life expectancy.
- Take advice from your vet to start supplements like glucosamine/chondroitin to prevent arthritis.
- Regular exercise is must for dogs to maintain their physical strength.
- Dental care is also very important. Brush teeth daily and visit the vet for dental check up and clean.
- Follow the vaccination protocol as directed by vet. Your vet may also conduct risk assessment for proper evaluation.
- Keep a watch on fleas and ticks and control them by any means. Make sure your dog is not infected by intestinal worms and ensure the surroundings including play area, waste area and bedding is regularly washed and cleaned.
- Your dog demands proper attention, love and care. You should have interesting play sessions with them to keep them happy and content.