Tips to Keep Your Aging Dog Comfortable & Healthy
Jordan Walker is well versed in pets and pet care. He is a regular contributor to Coops And Cages and other blogs where he shares his passion and knowledge of pets. In this article, he tackles the inevitable – old age in dogs and how dog owners can keep them comfy & healthy. He has also written other articles including a great one called, How to Make Training More Enjoyable.
It’s inevitable – one day all dogs will grow old. The best any loving dog owner can do is keep it comfy and fit in its golden years. One of dogs’ remarkable qualities their loyalty. They will stay with their humans throughout their years, never leaving their side and always ready to share warmth and affection. Sadly, all dogs have to grow old and will not be as active, limber, and will need to rely more and more on its master for good health and comfort. As a dog ages, its needs change and its health deteriorates. Owners will thus need to be proactive with an aging dog’s health. Although owners do not have total control over their dog’s health, they can take measures to ensure that they can manage the symptoms as a dog approaches its golden years.
Know when a dog becomes a senior
While certain breeds will experience a graying of their coat and muzzle when they grow old, not all dogs show their age. Owners may be hard put to recognize their dogs are approaching the senior years. Some of the signs that a dog is getting old include becoming hard of hearing, thinning fur, and slower, even labored movements. Older dogs will also now tire more quickly during play. Most dogs become seniors at around 10 years of age, although large and giant breeds age more quickly than smaller ones.
Provide an appropriate diet
Good nutrition is important for dogs at any age, but dog owners should recognize that the amount and proportion of food to give will vary over a dog’s life. As a dog ages, it will become less active. If not, it tends to lose weight and will need more calories to keep it at its ideal size. Dogs also often develop health issues like diabetes in their senior years. To prevent or delay health issues, owners should be able to provide a species appropriate diet. I give my dogs the Barfworld diet. You can read more about it at The BEST Dog Food. They are also more prone to dehydration, so providing access to fresh, clean water is important.
The best way to keep joints healthy is to provide a good joint supplement. I use NuJoint for my dogs to maintain healthy bones and joints. My younger one, Beverly (AKA Bevi) and my 5 year old Harriet are both on these supplements. It is best to keep the bones and joints healthy early on in order to avoid issues when they get older. See my article The BEST Glucosamine Bone Supplement for more information.
The Pet Health & Nutrition Center bone supplements are great. Amongst the products I use from them, one of the greatest is the Elk Velvet Antler Joint Supplement which is a natural source of glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, collagen, and many minerals that support bone and joint health. It is excellent for arthritis. They have many products for bone and joint support. I like to alternate products so I switch between my NuVet bone supplement and the Elk Velvet Antler Joint Supplement.
Green Lipid Mussels
Another a great option is Green Lipid Mussel extract. It contains a nutrient rich blend of natural proteins, minerals and omega fatty acids. Super Snouts Joint Powder is an excellent product and it is becoming a favorite of mine. It is made of 100% New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels. Interestingly, in the 1970s, NASA researchers took interest in this type of mussel and confirmed that their nutrients have incredible anti-inflammatory properties and support joint health.
Keep up an exercise routine
Although a dog becomes less agile with age, this should be no reason to discontinue exercise. Physical activity simply keeps dogs and their owners physically and mentally healthy. Owners should continue to provide an exercise routine to their aging pets to keep them lean and sprightly. An aging dog will have to go with less strenuous activities, but daily short walks will be adequate to keep its joints and muscles in good, working shape.
Make regular vet visits
Throughout a dog’s life, the vet is an important figure in helping it stay healthy. Dog owners being proactive with their elderly dogs’ health will not wait for health problems to come up before visiting the vet. Regular vet visits ensure that problems are spotted early on, especially those that may not be noticeable to the owner. Older dogs will begin to experience the effects of the wear and tear of time on their bodies and owners can help them avoid unnecessary discomfort by having them seen by a holistic vet who will be less likely to over medicate and less likely to cause medication-related illnesses and deterioration. A good vet will be even more valuable as a dog ages. It is important to discuss with them the frequency of wellness visits at this stage. Experts at The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommend seeing the vet every six months. A vet will give recommendations about frequency of visits based upon your dog’s needs. Owners should see to it that the vet examines their dog thoroughly at each visit. Routine screening tests may also be necessary during these visits.
Provide conveniences for getting around
Given that a senior dog will have difficulty getting around at some point, owners need to provide ways that an elderly dog can easily get from place to place. Dogs with joint problems and muscle stiffness will find it difficult to climb into bed or get into the car. Ramps or steps will aid greatly in making these tasks convenient for the dog as it loses some of its jump with age. Carpeting or non-slip mats on slippery areas will help prevent older dogs from losing their footing. Keeping their nails short will also provide them a better grip on floors. Dogs with failing eyesight can be accommodated by keeping floors free of clutter and maintaining a consistent environment such as by keeping its toys in the usual places and not rearranging the furniture. In addition, hearing-impaired dogs should not be disturbed while sleeping or approached from behind so as not to startle and distress them. I use the Snoozer Ramp for my girls. It is a bit pricey, but the surface is soft and its scalloped design makes it so that the dogs can grip the ramp well. Steps can be hard on the knees and hips for some dogs.
Upgrade the doggie bed
Aging joints and stiff muscles need a more comfortable bed in which to rest. To help aging dogs sleep better, dog owners should seriously consider upgrading to a more comfortable memory foam orthopedic bed, preferably with a thick, supportive foam and warm blankets. Orthopedic beds for dogs are also available with special heating and vibrating functions to aid circulation. .
Watch the weather
Older dogs are less able to withstand extremes in temperature and should be allowed outdoors only for shorter periods. Owners should bundle up their senior canines during the cold months. Special dog apparel are available at pet stores. During the Summer, elderly dogs should be provided plenty of fresh cool water. Owners should not allow heavy exercise and direct exposure to the sun and heat to avoid heat stroke. All dogs need access to shade to cool off.
Aging dogs will require a bit of extra time and attention, but giving them the best life possible and enjoying their company in their golden years is well worth the effort.
Author: Jordan Walker
Jordan is the lead content curator for Coops And Cages as well as a couple of other pet related blogs. His passion for animals is only matched by his love for “attempting” to play the guitar. If you would like to catch him, you can via Google+ or Twitter: @CoopsAndCages.