How to Care for a Senior Dog

How to Care for a Senior Dog

by Scritch

Pets are part of our family, and as pets age, there’s no denying that most families will do anything and everything to keep their pet healthy. Caring for your senior dog is vital to ensure he maintains the most optimal health.

Keep Your Dog Active

Just like us, as dogs age, they may slow down and not be able to do as much. Additionally, dogs may develop joint issues and health conditions that affect mobility. Keeping your dog active can help slow down these joint issues so he can keep up with walks. Staying active is just as important for dogs because it can help keep some health conditions at bay.

Ways to keep your dog active:

  • Get social: You can go to the dog park and meet new dogs or set up a doggy-playdate with a neighbor. Dogs of all ages benefit from playtime, but lots of pet parents note that a senior dog gets a special boost from playing with puppies (if they tolerate them).
  • New experiences: By exploring different areas on daily walks, dogs can be exposed to new scents and unfamiliar surroundings that get those neurons firing. This also works by introducing new toys and teaching new tricks (which you can teach an old dog) to promote mental and physical stimulation.
  • Try nose work: This low-impact activity is a great way to keep your senior dog challenged both mentally and physically. Nose work can be done casually at home, or with an organized class.
  • Share lots of love: Devote plenty of time and attention to your dog. He can still play fetch or hide and seek, or even go swimming (it’s easy on the joints!) if he’s a waterbaby. There’s always time to create new memories, even with an old pup.

A Senior Dog Diet

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs are just like humans when it comes to aging in terms of changes in metabolic rate. Having a decreased metabolic rate means that fewer calories will be burned and more will be stored as fat. Mature dogs require 20 percent fewer calories to maintain their weight in comparison to younger dogs, and dogs who are aging can benefit from food that has fewer calories and fat. 

If you notice your dog is becoming less interested in eating, it’s worth scheduling a veterinary appointment to rule out any type of disease or illness. Sometimes it may even be a dental issue as well, so try not to hold off on making an appointment. Plus, if he’s not already on a special diet, take note of what you’re feeding your dog, and focus on healthy superfoods fit for dogs. Lots of pet parents have noticed that a gradual change in diet with older dogs can help with their health. Additionally, all dogs need L-carnitine in their diet to convert fat to energy; it’s a compound similar to a vitamin that comes from amino acids found in chicken, fish, red meat, and dairy products.

Maintain Veterinary Appointments

No matter the age of your dog, you should always keep up with regular veterinary appointments but this is especially important when you have a senior dog. Preventative medicine is vital. Much like humans, dogs become fragile as they get older. A young dog has the ability to fight off a disease, however, an older dog’s immune system isn’t usually as strong to fight the pathogen and faces a greater risk of getting sick. 

Younger dogs need to visit the vet every year, but as your dog ages, your vet may recommend more frequent appointments – usually every six to eight months. To monitor your dog’s health, your veterinarian will do a physical exam, blood chemistry, urinalysis, eye exam, blood pressure, and x-ray during checkups. Some veterinarians may have different routines when it comes to checkups, so if there is something in particular you would like checked, always ask.

Oral Health and Grooming Importance

Oral health is important, especially when it comes to senior dogs because periodontal disease is a common health problem with pets. Around 80 percent of dogs will have some type of periodontal disease by the time they are two years of age, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Periodontal disease can lead to some serious health issues that can interfere with your dog’s wellbeing. 

Many pet owners don’t realize their dog has periodontal disease until it has progressed. Some symptoms you can look for are:

  • Blood in water bowls and/or on chew toys
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bloody saliva
  • Not wanting to be pet on the head
  • Making noises when eating or yawning
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Lump in your dog’s mouth

Periodontal disease doesn’t just lead to bad teeth and gums. Your dog could experience unbearable pain that could cause them to lose their appetite, or not be able to chew and eat, which could lead to serious weight loss.

Taking care of your senior dog is just like taking care of a dog of any age, except with a bit more caution. Following up with routine veterinary checkups and making sure to do your part will ensure that your furry, four-legged family member is happy and comfortable as he ages.