How to Care for a Senior Dog
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Whether your dog came to you as a puppy, adult or senior, different stages of life have different care requirements. Senior dogs, especially, have very different needs during their twilight years.
While some senior dogs may have very specific needs, there are certainly several things we can all do to help make our senior dog’s last years as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.
The following are several tips about senior dog care to help you care for your aging pet.
Senior Dog Health Care
Routine check-ups are vital once your dog reaches his senior years. Take your senior dog to his regular vet twice a year. These visits will allow you and your vet to catch any problems early on, giving your dog a better chance to combat ailments and suffer less.
Because dogs cannot tell us how they feel, it is up to us to pay attention and regular vet care helps us do just that. Additionally, regular check-ups will allow the vet to keep tabs on any vaccinations or other preventive care that is needed.
Dental care is an often overlooked part of senior dog care. But, it shouldn’t be because senior dog’s teeth can decay and become infected much easier than younger dogs.
Just like you, your dog needs to have his teeth brushed every day too. Be sure to use toothpaste and toothbrushes made specifically for dogs. If your dog doesn’t like the toothbrush, you can use a specially designed wipe instead – see our guide to the best dog dental wipes. Try playing or going for a walk first so he will be a little tired and more likely to let you take care of his teeth.
Senior Dog Toilet Training
Potty times change as dogs enter their senior years. They cannot “hold it” for as long as when they were younger. They will need more frequent potty breaks as they get older. If you absolutely cannot be present to take him outside, be sure to lay down a piddle pad for him.
It may take a few times, but they usually figure out that is what that pad is for. It makes it easier to clean up when they just can’t wait. Also, remember that if it is a sudden change, you should schedule a visit to the vet to rule out an underlying condition.
Senior Dog Diet and Exercise
Food is another important component of senior dog care. Because your senior dog has different needs than a puppy or middle-aged adult dog, dog food that is labeled “senior” will be specially formulated for older dogs. Also, if you have allowed your dog to free-feed or have one or two larger meals per day, this is the time to switch to several smaller meals each day.
Just like humans, several smaller meals are better for his digestive system as well as make it easier to maintain his weight. Senior dogs have a slower metabolism and have a hard time not putting on weight. Try not to give your dog table scraps. But, if you absolutely cannot resist his “sad dog eyes” then stick with healthy, dog-safe fruits and veggies.
Because senior dogs have a hard time maintaining a healthy weight, it is important to keep them active as much as they are able. They may need to take shorter walks, but more often than when they were younger.
Mental exercise is important too! Whether you’re playing games with him, taking him to new places, or picking up a few toys that will engage him mentally, stimulating his cognitive functions will also help your dog to feel younger.
Senior Dog Comfort
As dogs age, they develop aches and pains like humans do, often from injuries or arthritis. To help your dog be more comfortable as he ages, be sure to keep his food and water bowls accessible.
Also, his dog bed and toys should be easy for him to get to as well. If your dog is having trouble with wood or tile floors, you should place some rugs in places he frequents so he doesn’t slip and hurt himself.
Food and water bowls may need to be elevated for older dogs that can lean over as far anymore. If you have stairs in your home, your dog should be able to access everything he needs on one floor, including the door he needs to go outside for the bathroom.
Senior dogs cannot regulate their body temperature as well. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t get too hot or too cold and never let them stay outside in extreme temperatures on their own.
They very likely may need coats and blankets in cold temperatures and more water in hot temperatures, including inside the house or car. What feels comfortable to you, may be very uncomfortable for them!
Like humans, many older dogs begin to lose their sight and hearing as they age. If your dog begins exhibiting signs of this, be sure to be gentle as they learn this new “normal”.
Try to avoid startling him by moving more slowly when you’re near him and using quieter, more soothing voices. Once he realizes you’re there and you’re you, he won’t be scared. Even better, place your hand near his nose so he can smell you and know you’re there with him.
Finally, the last aspect of senior dog care is knowing when to put him down due to old age. It is never an easy decision, but it is one of the most important things that we can do for them. There are several ways to know when it is time, here is helpful when to put your dog down due to old age checklist.
Wrapping up Senior Dog Care
After all the love that our dogs give us, it is our job as pet owners to ensure that we provide the best senior dog care that we can in their later years.
They cannot do it for themselves, they depend on us! Paying attention to their needs and ensuring they have the most comfort as possible is our way to show how much we love them.