Caring For Your Aging Dog
Dogs are man’s best friend. As much as we like to think our furry companions will always have that puppy attitude, bounding around the house with ceaseless energy, it’s important to remember that they age just as we do. Caring for a senior dog requires a little extra attention and love; if your dog has reached geriatric age (seven years old for small dogs and six years old for large dogs), be sure to commit to the following tips and keep an eye out for these signs of illness.
Senior Dog Care
There are five aspects of your dog’s health that should be considered as they get on in age. By doing your best to ensure these vital needs are met, you can guarantee their comfort and happiness as the years continue.
- Nutrition: Focus on low-calorie, high-fiber foods to avoid obesity and improve gastrointestinal health. Antioxidants like fruits and vegetables are key to fighting disease.
- Exercise: As dogs enter their senior years, they become more sedentary, but inactivity makes dogs more prone to obesity, putting them at higher risk of other serious medical conditions. Your veterinarian will asses your dog’s abilities and let you know what types of activities are safe.
- Vet Visits: Most vets recommend taking your dog for a checkup once every six months
- Oral Health: Up to 80% of dogs will suffer from gum disease at some point in their lives. Vets recommend brushing your dog’s teeth at least once a day. If your senior dog suffers from painful gum disease, a toothbrush may be too irritating, so use a gentle dental spray or wipe to remove plaque.
- Accommodations: Senior dogs often develop bone and joint problems as well as vision loss, which affect their mobility. Soft bedding and an easily accessible bed that doesn’t require jumping up or down will make things easier for an older dog. Therapeutic dog leg wraps and dog hock support braces can help ease arthritic pain as well.
Just as humans, however, disease can develop even if you’re doing everything right. The three main illnesses that affect aging canines are arthritis, kidney disease, and cancer.
Arthritis is characterized by external physical problems, such as difficulty standing or sitting, excess sleep, or the favoring of one limb over another. Symptoms of kidney disease can be a little more subtle; your dog may have a decreased appetite, increased thirst, or may experience changes in urinary frequency, although vomiting and the development of mouth sores can also occur. Canine cancer manifests quite severely, and poses a serious threat to your dog’s health; you may notice abdominal swelling in addition to lumps and discolored skin patches, breathing difficulties, and diarrhea or vomiting.
The more diligent you are as a dog owner (and best friend), the better your odds of catching any health issues as soon as they arise. With the proper care and buckets of love, your pup will enjoy its senior years problem-free.