Senior Dog Care Tips For Their Golden Years
As our dog begins to age and becomes a senior dog, their needs change. For instance, your dog once would have been happy to chase a stick in the park for hours on end, now he is more content with an easy walk around the block. His energy level isn’t the only change you might see. His mood, dietary preferences, and even his behavior might shift, as well. When man’s best friend hits seniorhood, you may notice your dog:
- Is more cautious on walks or in the park than usual
- Shows less enthusiasm when you come home
- Has more frequent bathroom accidents indoors
- Loses teeth, has gum infections or other oral issues
- Takes more time to get up from lying down
- Is unable to jump up on to furniture or walk up or down stairs
- Has difficulty seeing or hearing
- Gains or loses weight
While these aren’t always signs of aging, when a few occur at the same time you can safely assume your dog might need some help managing his pain, mobility, and health during his senior years. Here are a few ways you can make the journey more comfortable for your dog, and safer for you both.
Pet Stairs & Ramps For A Senior Dog
Hip issues are very common in many breeds of dogs, such as German shepherds, golden retrievers, rottweiler, and pugs. Even if your dog is a mixed breed — the ever-lovable shelter mutt — if he has some of these in his DNA he can be susceptible. To make life easier on your senior dog, consider adding pet stairs to make beds, couches and other furniture more accessible. He won’t have to risk injuring himself to relax in his favorite spots. In some cases, even stairs can be too much work. In those instances, you can use a pet ramp, which can help dogs with advanced hip dysplasia easily walk up steps or even into the car. Be sure to research the size you need for your dog and read reviews to help you determine the best quality for your budget.
Diet & Supplements
A lot goes into a good, healthy diet for a senior dog. Research shows that the amino acids found in red meat, fish, and chicken are beneficial for aging dogs, and since their metabolism slows down as they get older— just like humans— they benefit from meals with fewer calories from fat. However, it’s a complicated balance. As your dog continues to journey on into seniorhood, he may need more calories, not less, as they tend to start losing weight.
In addition to managing their specific dietary needs, consider adding supplements for other areas of health. You can add supplements like omega fatty acids to help with skin and coat (Wild Salmon Oil), glucosamine to help keep cartilage strong (Joint Support) and probiotics to support healthy digestion (Gastro Plus). There are supplements now that come in the form of seasoning, loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and flavor! A senior dog will often become a picky eater, these seasonings help keep their appetite and a healthy diet. These supplements are really beneficial at any age, but be sure to chat with your veterinarian before starting your dog on any new diet or supplement.
Safe Exercise and Mental Activity
Exercise is healthy for animals at any age, but for dogs, we need to make sure it’s the right kind of stimulation. For dogs still eager to accept treats, consider hiding them in a puzzle they have to solve. This will help keep their mental focus sharp and acute. You can purchase a treat puzzle or make your own. They can be really challenged (and rewarded) when you hide a few bits of kibble under tennis balls in a muffin pan. If you want your dog to be a little more active, purchase a ball where you can insert treats and they can roll it around the house at a slow, easy pace, snacking as the reward falls out. For other physical activities, considerably shorter, more frequent walks that avoid rugged terrain or stairs.
Caring for a senior pet can be stressful and emotional. But if you pay attention to your pet’s behaviors, particularly making note of any changes, you’ll be able to provide the care they need and deserve.