As our doggos grow older, they enter a new phase of life that requires somewhat, a little TLC. We have all seen it growing up; Nan or Grandpa slowly slowing down before our eyes and just as humans experience changes as they age, so do our dogs. In this post, I have put together a few tips and tricks to think about and to guide you through the process of caring for your senior dog and helping you provide them with the best possible quality of life during their golden years. But first things first, we need to understand with dogs, what is considered ' senior.'
Understanding the Aging Process
Determining when a dog is considered 'old' or 'senior' is not as straightforward as one might think. The aging process of dogs varies depending on their breed and size. The old way of multiplying a dog's age by seven to determine their equivalent human age is not accurate. However, as a general guideline, we can consider the following:
1. Small Breeds: Dogs weighing under 9 KG are often considered seniors at around 10-12 years of age.
2. Medium Breeds: Medium-sized dogs typically become seniors around 8-10 years old.
3. Large and Giant Breeds: Larger dogs may be considered seniors as early as 6-7 years old.
Taking care of your senior dog is crucial to ensure they stay healthy and happy during their later years.
Here are my top 10 tips for nurturing your aging dog:
1. Regular Vet Check-Ups: Just like humans need regular check-ups, senior dogs also require them to maintain good health and detect any medical issues early on. Your vet can advise you on vaccinations, dental care, and overall health management.
Tip: It's important to talk to your veterinarian about getting blood tests and screenings for common ailments like kidney disease, diabetes, and thyroid issues.
2. Nutrition & Diet: When it comes to the diet and nutrition of senior dogs, it's important to consult a vet or a nutritionist. They can help you choose a diet that meets your dog's specific nutritional needs. Senior dogs often require lower-calorie diets (as they tend to be less active in their golden years) and require supplements to support their joint health. It's beneficial to look for foods that contain high-quality protein sources and Omega-3 fatty acids, as these can help with their overall well-being.
Tip: You can promote joint health in your senior dog by feeding them foods that contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate. A supplement that I often recommend is 4 cyte.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight (Prevent Joint Stress): Excess weight can exacerbate joint issues, leading to discomfort and reduced mobility. Monitor your dog's weight and adjust their diet and exercise accordingly. Your veterinarian or physiotherapist can help you determine their ideal weight.
Tip: Measure your dog's food portions to control calorie intake, and avoid feeding table scraps.
4. Exercise and Mobility (Stay Active, Stay Healthy): Senior dogs benefit from regular, low-impact exercise to keep their joints and muscles in good shape. Consult with a canine physiotherapist to design a tailored exercise program that takes into account their age, breed, and any pre-existing conditions. Walks, gentle play, and short swims are great options.
Tip: Choose exercise times when the temperature is comfortable to avoid overheating or joint strain. If your dog enjoys going to the park but can be a bit overwhelmed with the commotion of all the other dogs off-leash running around, choose a time of day when the park is a little quieter.
5. Pain Management (Ensure Comfort): Aging dogs may experience arthritis or other chronic pain conditions. Discuss pain management options with your veterinarian, including medications and therapies like acupuncture. Other physiotherapy treatments like massage, cupping and mobility exercises can also help manage pain and can improve your dog's quality of life.
Tip: Pay attention to signs of pain, such as limping, excessive panting, reluctance to move, avoidance of normal day-to-day tasks or changes in behaviour.
6. Hydrotherapy and underwater treadmill (Swim for Health): Hydrotherapy, such as swimming or underwater treadmill, can provide an excellent low-impact exercise option for senior dogs. It not only helps improve mobility by unloading joints but it also relieves joint pain. Consider enrolling your dog in hydrotherapy or underwater treadmill sessions at a canine physiotherapist or rehabilitation centre.
Tip: If you decide to swim your dog out in nature at the beach or lake, consult with a physiotherapist to ensure safety comes first. Your dog may need a floatation jacket to help assist them in the water.
7. Environmental Modifications (Create a Senior-Friendly Home): Make your home senior-dog-friendly by adding non-slip flooring, ramps for easier access to furniture and vehicles, and comfortable bedding to support their mobility. Consider elevating their food and water bowls to reduce strain on their neck and back. Some senior dogs may benefit from assistance devices or harnesses such as a help-em-up harness or a belly sling to help support them with tasks such as standing from lying and going up and down stairs.
Tip: Use rugs, yoga mats or carpets to provide traction on slippery floors. If this is not possible, consider non-slip socks or toe grips to help give your dog more stability on slippery floor boards or polished tiles.
8. Mental Stimulation (Keep Their Minds Sharp): Just like physical health, mental health is essential for your senior dog. Keep them mentally sharp with puzzle toys and interactive games to combat cognitive decline. Short training sessions can also be enjoyable for both you and your dog.
Tip: Rotate toys regularly to keep them engaged. If you find your dog can be a little destructive with their toys, consider a hardy toy like 'Kong.'
9. Regular Grooming (Maintain Comfort and Health): Older dogs may have difficulty grooming themselves properly. Regular brushing of their coat and maintaining their dental health can prevent discomfort and health issues. Long nails can be painful and can contribute to tripping on slippery floors so keep them trimmed as well.
Tip: Brushing also helps distribute natural oils and keeps the coat healthy.
10. Quality Time (The Gift of Companionship): Finally, spend quality time with your senior dog. Their companionship is invaluable, and your attention can alleviate anxiety or loneliness. Gentle petting, cuddling, and simply being there for them can make all the difference in their emotional well-being.
Tip: Older dogs may need more frequent bathroom breaks, so be attentive to their needs.
As your dog grows older, it's important to adjust your care routine to cater to their evolving needs. By providing them with proper nutrition, exercise, and attention to their physical and emotional well-being, you can help your doggo enjoy a comfortable and satisfying life. Working alongside a canine physiotherapist and veterinarian can ensure that you give your senior dog the best care possible, allowing them to age gracefully and continue being the beloved member of your family that they've always been. Your commitment to their well-being will be repaid with the love and companionship of a happy and content senior dog.