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If any pet owner had one wish, it would be to have their pets by their side forever. Like us, dogs age (although a bit faster than we’d like them to) and proper care can ensure the healthiest and longest life possible for your furry friend. Senior dogs need special care and here is everything you need to know about providing for them!
First, how do you know your dog is aging?
The aging profile of dogs is different for some breeds, for example, small dogs usually live up to 13- 15 years while larger dogs can live up to 10-13 years. In general, smaller dogs live longer than medium and large sized dogs though diet, nutrition and health plays a huge role in determining a dog's life expectancy. Some breeds start showing signs of aging earlier as compared to others, for instance, bulldogs, great Danes, and bullmastiffs show signs of aging around 7-8 years whereas huskies, indies, and beagles start aging around 13-14 years.
Genetics, environment, and gut health also matter in the aging process. Once your dog starts showing signs of aging, they can be considered a senior dog regardless of their true age.
In the later stages of their lives, some dogs could develop serious health conditions like arthritis and joint issues, dementia, heart issues, cancer, and kidney problems, so always be on the lookout for symptoms and make regular vet appointments.
There are a few physical and mental signs of aging common to almost all breeds:
Pedigree dogs have parent dogs from the same breed, this narrower gene pool contributes to a higher risk of genetic problems and may lead to health risks.
Here are some care tips you can implement for making your senior dog’s life as comfortable as possible-
Most dog food companies do not differentiate their meals as per life stages. For older dogs, it is important to give an easily digestible diet as metabolism slows down and overfeeding may lead to obesity and other health issues. Try switching to low fat, low sodium, and roughage-filled diets. High protein diets are encouraged and increased water intake. Make sure all of their meals are home cooked or freshly prepared, and wholesome. Consult your vet or a professional canine nutritionist to determine which supplements will benefit your pet the most, given their specific health conditions and activity levels
Like us, even dogs experience arthritis among other joint issues, with the onset of old age. They should be introduced to regular exercise rather than random bursts of strenuous activity since that may lead to soreness. The right course of treatment will vary with each breed but mainly, conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia may need surgical intervention to rectify. Some degenerative joint conditions can be treated by a mix of nutrition, lifestyle changes and exercise prescribed by a canine expert
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) affects around 50% of dogs over the age of 11 years. At around 15 years of age, more than 68% of dogs begin to experience cognitive problems associated with CCD. This may show up as,
Consult your vet for a proper course of therapy and treatment if you begin to notice any such symptoms. If your dog experiences anxiety with old age, it is safe to use certain natural remedies like CBD oil, melatonin, and lavender after proper vet consultation. To keep your pet mentally engaged, provide them with chew toys, puzzles, new tricks, and importantly, some hugs and cuddles. You can engage in massages or simple companionship and quality time if your senior pet experiences fear, confusion or disorientation.
Also read - All You Need to Know: Bowen Therapy For Dogs
Senior or elderly dogs may require an extra hand of help getting around or feeling comfortable, so investing in some products can be a win-win!
Your vet will determine the frequency and need for any vaccinations but broadly, senior dogs are vaccinated once in 2-3 years but for diseases like kennel cough, leptospirosis, or Lyme disease, vaccines may be given more frequently. Have regular blood and urine tests for your dog as they may help in the early detection of diseases like diabetes, and kidney and thyroid diseases.
To help elderly dogs keep their skin, coat, eyes, ears, and nails clean, it’s important to schedule regular grooming appointments. Make sure to be gentle with them, make the baths or grooming process quick, and always take into consideration any health issues that they might have. When using a professional grooming service, never leave them alone with a dog groomer as they may not be aware of your senior dog’s special needs
Dogs can experience symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s as seen in humans. This may show up as forgetfulness, confusion, and unfamiliarity with known people or places. Be kind and always prioritize vet appointments at early stages of such symptoms. All senses can start deteriorating so it is important to keep senior dogs under observation in their daily activities.
Regularly check for fluctuations in your dog’s weight and consult a professional canine nutritionist to come up with a customized diet to manage them. This symptom of fluctuation should not be taken lightly as it may indicate early signs of sickness.
If you have a young or a middle-aged dog, you can still start caring for the later stages of their lives today!
Here are some tips you can start implementing now:
Many pet parents either opt for commercially available dog foods or give their dog whatever is cooked at home. Unfortunately, this may lead to severe nutrient deficiencies over time resulting in health issues as well as, excessive weight gain. It’s crucial to know what type of food is best for your dog considering their breed, age and activity levels.
It’s highly recommended to consult a certified canine nutritionist who would guide you to make better food decisions for your dog’s improved quality of life today and the years to come. It’s one of the best investments you can make not just for your dog but also for yourself.
Like humans, staying active is essential for dogs too. Some dogs like accompanying their parents to hikes while some enjoy a leisurely stroll in the park. Dogs must be walked outdoors for at least 30-45 minutes daily, unless they are unwell or have mobility issues. Allowing your dog to sniff at their own pace and explore slowly is also important for their wholesome walking experience.
Physical health can also be a way to mentally stimulate your dog. You can do this by placing their treats in corners of the house, buy doggy feeder mats, treat toys and puzzles among others.
Most people focus on the physical health of their dog and often forget one important component of their health – their mental well-being. Keeping your dog mentally stimulated from a very young age will help them stabilize their senses for the future. This may look like learning new tricks, implementing new routines, and visual, sensory or audio stimulation. You may also take them to parks, parking lots, swimming pools, dog water parks, or even your backyard to explore new areas and enjoy new activities.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your dog's time as they enjoy creativity just like humans.
From us here at Lana Paws, we wish your senior dog a healthy and enriching life full of fun and beautiful memories with you.
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