Senior Dogs Need Love Too: Caring for Aging Canine Companions

Posted by Jackie Ly on

As our four-legged friends enter their senior years, they deserve a little extra TLC. Everything from dietary tweaks, the right training, and regular visits at the vet comprises the love and support we should show our elderly doggies as they go through their golden years.

Signs of ageing in dogs

Dogs age differently depending on different factors. Generally, smaller dogs tend to live the longest at 15 years minimum, while giant dog breeds such as mastiffs reach up to 7 to 8 years. Most dogs live happy, healthy “senior” lives from 7 to 13 years. Understanding telltale signs of ageing ensures you’re prepared to provide the right care.

Some of the physical signs of ageing in dogs include:

Changes in coat - Like humans, our canine companions also experience changing fur colours. This includes white, almost silvery hair around their muzzle, as well as thinning fur.

Make sure they’re getting groomed regularly. Review their diet, too—they should be getting omega-3 fatty acids to keep their fabulous coats from becoming dull or lacklustre.

Weight fluctuations - Senior dogs tend to go back and forth on the weighing scale. This reflects the changes in their metabolism as they age. Talk to your vet when this occurs so you can get a prescription diet that best suits your elderly pup’s needs.

Altered gait - When your legs don’t work like they used to before…possibly due to joint issues or arthritis. Make things easier for your dog by keeping their bed, food bowl, and other supplies within a smaller area.

Dental changes - Tartar buildup, gum disease, or tooth loss become more apparent with age. Part of taking care of your dog’s health is looking after their pearly whites with regular toothbrushing.

Diminished vision and hearing - This may be distressing to both you and your dog, but it is one of the most common signs of ageing. Pay attention to any signs of impaired vision or a reduced responsiveness to sounds.

Ageing also includes some changes in your dog’s behaviour. These include:

Increased sleep time and general inactiveness - Ageing is tough business, so elderly dogs tend to sleep. A lot. This may cause them to be more restless at night.

Their bodies will also find it difficult to keep up, so if they’re not asleep, they’re probably relaxing on your sofa or in a comfortable place in your house. If you have to approach them, speak to them in a soothing tone and avoid making sudden movements to keep them from getting stressed.

Increased irritability - Your once laid-back dog might become a bit grumpier or less tolerant of certain activities. It’s a lot like how your grandpa might tell off kids for being too loud.

As your dogs age, it might be best to prepare quiet, designated areas where they can rest undisturbed. It also helps to understand what triggers their irritability through their body language, so you’ll know what activities they’re not too fond of.

Changes in interaction - Senior dogs may either become more withdrawn, or will find every opportunity to seek more attention from you. If it’s the former, provide them with a quiet place that has their bed, toys, and familiar items. If it’s the latter, respond with gentle invitations. Sit nearby, talk softly, pet them gently. Let them come to you.

House-soiling - With how many pee stains over the house, you’d think your senior dog had gone back to being a puppy! Even if they’ve been reliably house-trained, older dogs tend to be incontinent, and they can’t really help it.

It’s best to take your senior dogs outside for more frequent bathroom breaks, especially after meals. This helps them manage their bladder and decrease the chances of accidents. While you’re working on that, invest in some waterproof or easily washable bedding, as well as some comfortable diapers.

Increased vocalisation - You might hear your dog barking or howling more often as they age. Take a look at their body language to understand what they’re trying to tell you; they might be expressing discomfort or even pain.

An increase in vocalisation might be caused by anxiety, too. Senior dogs are a lot more sensitive, and things that might not have bothered them before can bother them in their older years. Identify what could potentially stress them out and work to minimise them.

Practical care for senior dogs

As your dog ages, you’ll have to make adjustments to their routine (and to yours) to better suit their needs. It’s like crafting a wellness plan to ensure their golden years are filled with comfort and joy.

Dietary adjustments - Ageing gracefully starts with a well-balanced diet. This depends on your dog’s immediate needs, which your vet can identify. A low-calorie diet may be best for overweight dogs; they might need more calories if they’re underweight. Your vet may prescribe a specific diet for dogs with chronic illnesses.

In general, small, frequent meals may be easier for your senior dogs’ digestive systems to manage. Go for less fat and focus on protein and joint-supporting nutrients and supplements for that extra pep in their step.

Exercise and mental stimulation - While their days of running zoomies all over the yard may be behind them, senior pups still need exercise. That means slow but regular walks and low-impact activities like swimming or running on the treadmill to keep their joints supple and muscles engaged.

Mental workouts are important, too. Get them puzzle toys and slow feeders to keep them sharp and to stave off cognitive decline.

Twice a year checkups - Remember that as your dog ages, the higher they are at risk for issues like cancer, arthritis, and oral diseases.

Making regular trips to your vet can help catch age-related issues early, ensuring timely interventions.

Ask for the following in addition to their routine wellness like vaccines, dental checks, and parasite preventives:  

  • Complete blood count
  • Chemistry screening to check their liver, kidneys, blood sugar
  • Urinalysis and poop tests 
  • Breed-specific testing 

Each grey hair and every gentle sigh is a testament to the countless memories and unwavering companionship our dogs have gifted us. As you continue to provide love and tailored care, sprinkled in with extra belly rubs, always remember that the goal is to enhance the golden years for our loyal friends.

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