How to Care for an Aging Dog
Puppies are notoriously difficult to train and care for. However, most pet owners believe that dogs require less maintenance as they get older - and that's true, to a point. While young dogs need only routine vet visits and medications, taking care of senior dogs can be a more difficult task, especially as their health begins to deteriorate. Here are some ways you can make sure your best friend stays in tip-top shape so he's with you for a long, long time.
When are dogs considered seniors?
First, you may be wondering if your dog is even technically considered a senior yet. The problem is that this can vary from one dog to the next; larger dogs tend to age faster than smaller ones, though. Most small dogs are considered seniors around age seven, while larger dogs are considered seniors around age six.
Maintain an Exercise Schedule
Older dogs need exercise just as much as younger ones, but you may need to switch up the routine a bit. While young dogs can play frisbee and run, older dogs may need a little less exertion. If you notice your dog has trouble keeping up during your morning jog, for example, consider switching to a walk instead. Also, it's normal for most dogs to need a little more rest as they get older. However, if your dog simply won't budge or has extreme difficulty with movement, it's time to see a vet. He may have arthritis or heart problems that require additional care.
Adjust Their Nutrition
If you're like most dog owners, you've always tried your best to give your dog nutritious food. You know it's important for their overall health and longevity. That's even more true now that your pup is getting older. Take a bit of time to research dog foods that are meant especially for senior dogs. Because not all dog foods are the same, you'll need to find one that fits your dog's needs in particular. For example, many older dogs struggle with excess weight gain, which can affect their health dramatically. You may need a dog food formula that's formulated for weight loss. When in doubt, your dog's vet should have some great suggestions to get you started.
Look for Signs of Mental Health Issues
Just like humans, senior dogs can experience mental health issues such as dementia. To stay on top of the issue, pay attention to your dog's behaviors and look for signs. These may include confusion, restlessness or difficulty sleeping, pacing, having "accidents" around the house, nervousness or aggression. If you believe your dog may be senile, you may need to adjust your expectations for his behaviors.
Get Regular Checkups and Vaccines
As always, you should keep your senior dog caught up on all health checkups and vaccines. Depending on your vet's recommendations, these may be even more frequent than before. While most vets recommend annual checkups for younger dogs in good health, many senior dogs require semi-annual appointments to stay in optimum health. You should also keep giving regular doses of important medications such as flea, tick and heartworm prevention. If your dog has difficulty taking regular pills, Heartgard plus chewables can be a great alternative.
Enjoy Your Time Together
If you're concerned that your dog is already showing signs of aging, don't despair. You likely have many long years together. With proper nutrition, frequent health checkups and regular exercise, you and your dog should have a long, happy life together.