National Senior Pet Month – caring for your older dog
Who doesn’t wish for a long and healthy life for their dog into old age, but as they get older, they do need extra special care and attention. A dog is considered to be “senior” when they reach around 7-8 years old and it’s at this time that their everyday needs and lifestyle will change. You will notice that your dog becomes less active and there may be a change in their behaviour. As a pet owner, it’s sometimes quite difficult to spot the difference between the early warning signs of illness or disease, and the normal signs of ageing.
Higher risk conditions
As your dog becomes older, he may have a higher risk of developing illness such as:
Diabetes – hungry and increased thirst
Arthritis – look out for sudden limping
High Blood Pressure – seizures, circling, blood in urine, weakness and other symptomsObesity – weight gain and excessive body fat, unwillingness to exercise
Cushings Disease – increased thirst, hunger and urination; many other symptoms
Hypothyroidism – lack of appetite, sluggishness, vomiting, enlarged glands in neck
Kidney problems – frequency of urinating and smelly urine
Dental disease – drooling and bad breath
Cloudy eyes – could mean cataracts
There are many other illnesses and diseases that senior dogs may develop and suffer from. Many Vets offers a special discount on wellness checks for senior dogs, check this out at your local surgery.
Signs of old age
As dogs age, some become friendlier and will look forward to spending more time with his owner, while others may become grumpy. There may be some anxiety as their hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, and of course they are not as sprightly on their feet. An older dog may lose weight due to illness or poor digestion (a good reason to consult with your Vet if your dog shows signs of weight loss). You dog’s mouth may become drier with difficulty swallowing. As the skins loses its elasticity, grey hairs may appear and the coat will lose its sheen. His sleep pattern could change and as his bones and muscles become weaker, he may lose some immunity to disease.
Feeding an older dog
Just as humans are at risk of middle-aged spread, dogs too are no exception, so take care when giving out treats. Specially formulated food diets for senior dogs are usually lower in calories, and less likely to lead to a gain in weight. Always consult your Vet if your dog goes off his food, loses or gains weight and likewise, if you spot any changes to his thirst.
Exercise and the older dog
Your dog may appear to feel achy and with stiff joints in the morning, but try to exercise your dog for around 20 – 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day. Little and often periods of exercise are more beneficial to a senior dog. Modern drug treatments are efficient for improving your dog’s quality of life and reducing pain. Remember to keep a check on the dog’s nails, as they can become sore if the nail grows too long and turns into the pad. It’s important to keep your dog’s brain alert, by playing games with him, although he may no longer be able to chase after the ball in the park. He will appreciate lots of touching, stroking and hugs and groom him regularly.
Some breeds of dog age sooner than others, and their life expectancy may not even reach into double figures, but for most dogs, 16 and 17 is a good age if they are fit and healthy. Their home environment, nutrition and genetics all play a role in how fast your pet ages. By making some preparations for old age in your pets, you will ensure that their last years are a pleasant time for everyone.
Finchley Dog Walking Service offers bespoke dog walks for the older dog