Dogs bring so much joy into our lives. Unfortunately, their lives are shorter than our lives which means we will end up caring for our senior dog. Maybe you have noticed their muzzle has turned gray. Maybe they are panting more than usual after a routine walk. When a dog becomes a senior depends on its breed. Small dogs such as Chihuahuas have longer lives and usually reach their golden years around 12 years old. Larger dogs such as Great Danes have shorter lives and tend to attain senior status around 5 years old. Breed, genetics, diet, and environment all have an impact on a dog’s life expectancy. Just as science and modern medicine have extended our lives, it has also extended our dog's lives. By incorporating some simple strategies into your dog’s routine, you can offer your dog the best golden age for them.
Take Care of Their Teeth
Dental hygiene is important in life but it's crucial once a dog reaches their senior years. Regular brushing and professional cleaning can prevent painful dental disease and decay. It's best to start a regular brushing routine when they are young. If your pet is older and doesn’t like their teeth brush, give them dental treats.
Watch Their Diet
Older dogs may experience more food issues such as lack of appetite, digestive issues, obesity, or problems chewing. Consult with your vet to find the right diet for your dog. Some dietary changes may include increasing fiber to help with digestion, decreasing carbs to help with weight loss, or supplements to alleviate joint pain.
Exercise Their Body and Mind
Just like people, dogs need mental and physical stimulation. Just like people, the exercises they did as a young dog probably will not be the same when they are in their golden years. Walks may get shorter, and your dog might pant more. Keep an eye on them and adjust your exercise routine as needed. Don’t forget to provide mental stimulation as well. Interactive toys such as food puzzles help to keep your dog sharp.
Senior Proof Your House
You once puppy-proofed your house, and you may need to senior proof your house now. Older dogs sometimes need special accommodation. For dogs with hip or joint issues, you may consider installing a ramp or stairs so they can still join you in the car or the bed. Keep food and water is easily accessible areas especially if they are vision impaired. Heated beds can soothe achy joints. Non-slip surfaces will provide traction and help prevent falls. Examine your house and find the areas that you can modify to help ease your dog’s life.
Visit the Vet
Yearly visits should become twice a year once a dog becomes a senior. Older pets may need additional blood test, dental care, and exams. Some breeds are prone to certain ailments such as cancer, arthritis, and hip dysplasia so its best to catch them before they become an issue for your dog. Early detection can be a life saver.
Dogs bring so much love and joy into our lives. The least we can do is provide for them and take care of them during their elder years. Pay attention to them. Monitor changes such as behavior, diet, dental issues, lumps, bumps, or lesions. Take them to the vet regularly and if something changes in their routine, contact your vet.