When your beloved pet start to age towards their senior years, they will have different needs. Just as with humans, old age comes with a lot of challenges. They will need your support now more than ever.
So, first thigs first, do you know when your dog is considered a senior pet? The way dogs age really depend on their breed. Large breed dogs age faster – so a Great Dane will be a senior dog by their 5th or 6th year while smaller dogs such as Pugs or Chihuahuas would be a senior dog when they turn 10 or 11. Mid-size dogs, on the other hand, will be considered senior dogs when they’re around 8 years old.
There are specific signs to watch for to find out if your pet is ageing, this includes greying of the fur, slower movement, change in energy level and hesitancy to go outdoors.
Here are some tips on caring for senior dogs:
- Keep them moving – In their senior years, dogs may develop degenerative disease that make simple activities such as walking or playing difficult. Arthritis is among the most common health issues senior dogs develop in their later years. Regular exercise is still important to maintain their health and weight. A less demanding routine may be better as they age so keep walks shorter but increase frequency. Some older dogs may still love swimming, so when the weather is right, let them take a dip.
- Visit your veterinarian regularly – They need to be seen by the vet at least once a year to check for diseases that may come up in your pets’ senior years – heart disease, liver disease and kidney disease are possible illnesses that need medical attention as soon as possible. Preventive care, such as health exams every six months, is highly recommended for geriatric dogs.
- Dental care is a must – At this age, your dogs might start losing their teeth. Poor dental health may make matters worse and lead to difficulty eating. You can drop by your veterinary clinic for dental cleaning and ask about the appropriate home oral health care.
- Change their diet – Choose food that is appropriate for your senior dogs’ age and lifestyle. They become less active as they get older, which increases the propensity towards obesity.
- Set a grooming schedule – Less activity and more time spent sleeping can cause matting of fur, general poor coat condition and faster growth of nails. Older dogs also tend to have thinner and more sensitive skin. Regular grooming can promote healthier skin and fur, which becomes even more important as your dogs age.
- Think about accessibility – Elderly dogs may find it difficult to bend down to reach food or to jump up slightly to go out the pet door. Think about their changing mobility. Ramps might make it easier for them to navigate stairs.
The most important thing about caring for senior pets is understanding their needs and providing them as much comfort as possible. While getting older is normal, it can be a difficult and painful journey. Live in the moment and enjoy the memories you have with your loyal pet for as long as you can.