Just like people dogs are individual in the way they age. Aging dogs are very susceptible to numerous health problems. Good care and common sense can make your dogs aging process comfortable.
One of the first signs of aging is slowing down. Slowing down is natural. However, it is important not to overlook it. This may be your first warning sign that significant changes are starting in your dogs’ physical and mental health. This is the time to see your vet. Blood tests done by a veterinarian will screen for many diseases that affect older dogs. Regular check ups are more important now than ever.
Weight Gain: Good nutrition is paramount in maintaining the health of an aging dog. The need for calories diminishes as your dog grows older. Your dog may benefit from an increase in fiber and decrease in fat in its diet. Extra weight is hard on an older dog’s system. Consult with your veterinarian in choosing a suitable diet. Talk to your vet about dietary supplements.
Tooth & Gum Problems: It is extremely important to keep teeth clean and check teeth for gum disease. Diseased gums and teeth can have serious consequences for your dog. Periodontal disease can lead to infection that can enter your dog’s bloodstream causing serious problems. Brush your dog’s teeth daily. Make sure your vet checks your dogs’ teeth at least once a year. Have them professionally cleaned whenever your vet advises you to.
Hearing Loss: Dogs with hearing loss are unaware of a person’s approach; because of this they become startled when touched. The reaction might seem like aggression. In addition the dog may no longer obey commands because it no longer hears them.
Sight Problems: Cataracts and glaucoma can affect senior dogs. Watch your pet for signs of sight loss, note of any changes in the appearance of the eyes. If your dog has poor sight, avoid rearranging furniture.
Urine Leakage:Aging dogs may start to forget their housetraining. Because they sleep longer and more soundly they may need to go outside more often. Waking them and giving them a gentle reminder might be necessary. There are products on the market such as Belly Bands and Piddle Pants to help with urine leakage problems. With belly bands and piddle pants, you don’t need to hesitate to take your dogs visiting and they can stay in dog-friendly motels without the worry of accidents.
Dementia: Some signs include disorientation, barking for no reason, staring into space and many become less social. Some dogs have a hard time adjusting to any changes in their routine. Vision or hearing loss may make them anxious especially when separated from the owners.
Exercise: Exercise is important in older dogs just as it is in humans. Aging dogs sleep more and are less active. Exercise your dog daily but in moderation, consider shorter walks but more frequently. Use caution on very hot or extremely cold days. Massaging your dog improves blood circulation and your dog will enjoy the attention.
Mobility: Steps: As your dog ages, you may notice that he/she is no longer climbing onto the furniture or a favorite resting spot. It may not be because he doesn’t want to be there. He may just no longer feel comfortable with the “jump up”. At some point, your dog will be grateful to you if you provide stairs to his spot. You can buy wooden stairs on the internet and there are some cheap plastic steps that you can find in many stores. But an alternative for a smaller dog like a Westie may just be “cat stairs”. The following photo shows a set custom made by Pet Classics which were made for a dog who had become leery of narrow treads.
Walks:When your dog can’t walk the distance, it doesn’t mean you need to leave him home. Many dogs ride nicely in wagons and those who don’t will often like doggie buggies. Be sure to keep a leash on the dog and tied to the wgon or buggy if you aren’t actually holding it. Take the buggy with you on walks and when your dog tires, you can just plop him or her in the buggy and continue the walk or return home without having to carry the dog. Another advantage of this is that it gives you a place to bring along supplies like water, poop bags, an extra sweater for yourself, etc. And you can hang your pepper spray from the handle so that it is quickly accessible if needed.
Your job is to become informed about how dogs age and what they need to go into their golden years healthy and happy. Keep your dog active, happy and as comfortable as possible.
Nutrition and Food
Weight Gain:Good nutrition is paramount in maintaining the health of an aging dog. The need for calories diminishes as your dog grows older. Your dog may benefit from an increase in fiber and decrease in fat in its diet. Extra weight is hard on an older dog’s system. Consult with your veterinarian in choosing a suitable diet. Talk to your vet about dietary supplements.