Your dog will always be a puppy in your eyes, we know. There’s no grey hair that can make you think otherwise. But, do not wait to see your beloved pup having trouble to climb on the sofa or panting quite a lot more after a walk to start caring a bit more.
Note that the exact age when a dog is considered a senior can vary depending on a breed: smaller toy breeds can enter the golden category when they’re 12 whereas a Great Dane may attain this status as early as at the age of five. But more importantly than breed and size, a dog’s life expectancy will be determined by its genetics, diet and overall care. Just like modern medicine has extended and enhanced the lives of people, with the right combination of attention and preventive care, we can also extend the lives of our beloved pets.
First, let’s make sure that you are feeding your dog the right food. Does it have any allergies? Is his or her stool firm? Does your dog suffer from constipation? How about anal gland issues? Adding herbal digestive supplement to your dog’s daily meal can never hurt.
Adding Probiotics is also always a good idea to keep their intestinal flora balanced. Just try to resist the temptation of getting a flavoured one as chicken or beef can trigger your dog’s existing allergies. There are many allergen-free brands which are very easy to administer by simply getting them in powder form or opening the capsule and putting the powder over the kibbles.
Dogs’ joints take a pounding due to so much running and jumping. A glucosamine supplement prior to any injury or wear and tear may help provide additional joint health support. Glucosamine hydrochloride acts as a building block of cartilage by supplying a key nutrient that keeps cartilage cells healthy and functioning properly.
Moreover, make sure your dog is not overweight as any additional weight will put an additional burden on the joints.
If natural supplements are more of your thing, you can use coconut oil, turmeric and black pepper to provide a nutritional support for a healthy inflammatory response and joint health – they are combined in the Hip and Joint mix by Kin+Kind.
Dental hygiene is particularly crucial as your dog ages. Regular brushing and professional cleaning can prevent painful dental disease and decay. If your dog doesn’t enjoy having his/her teeth brushed, consider dental treats and toys instead. And if you have the budget, Emmi-pet ultrasonic toothbrush will be your best friend and will help your dog dread the process far less.
The prevention mantra: Exercise, Discipline, then Affection
Nothing is more important than prevention, so it’s important that throughout your dog’s life, you are providing exercise, a nutritious diet, and supplements as needed and recommended by your vet. Alternative medicine treatments, like acupuncture, are becoming increasingly more popular for all kinds of conditions, especially arthritis which is common in older dogs who have been very active.
Exercise your dog’s mind as well
Your dog’s brain needs plenty of exercise as well. Stimulating toys such as food puzzles help keep your dog sharp.
Seniors are entitled to a VIP treatment – the revised formula
As your dog ages, it is no longer so much about the time spent walking, as it is about allowing it to stay where it wants to be. This is the revised fulfilment formula. Tailoring the fulfilment formula as a dog ages to fit his needs is something that many owners have a hard time with. It’s no different than facing our own fear of death. But this is a natural part of life, and honouring that life equals to honouring your dog. “Room service” at this stage of life is completely acceptable.
SPA treatments included!
As dogs age, so do their coat and skin, a once luxurious and shiny coat can become dull looking and brittle. Seniors can also suffer from dry, flaky, and irritated skin that can become even worse if not cared for properly. That means that you will have to brush your dog regularly, especially to avoid the development of tangles. It would also be a good idea to use only natural shampoos that will nourish and heal irritated skin and coat. If your dog is prone to ear problems, avoid oatmeal. You can never go wrong with natural antiseptic shampoos that contain tea tree, peppermint and wintergreen such as Purplebone’s dog shampoo.
Step up vet visits
Older pets may need additional blood tests, dental care and examinations. Additionally, many breeds have predispositions toward certain ailments, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, cancer and diabetes. Early detection can help catch these before they become untreatable.
Protection at all times
As dogs age, their immune systems become weaker, so that means the potential health risks caused by ticks, fleas, worms, and other pests become even greater. Talk to your vet about the safest preventative measures.
Monitor physical activity more closely
Just because your dog could handle an hour-long walk a year ago doesn’t mean this will still be the case. Regular exercise can help keep your dog mobile longer and also prevent him or her from becoming overweight, which is a common issue for senior dogs, but you also don’t want to push your pup too far. Watch for signs if he or she is having trouble going the distance. Ensuring your dog’s joint health is also critical as the years go by.
Senior-proof your home
As your dog ages, you may need to make adjustments to your regular routine. For example, climbing the stairs can become very difficult. Therefore, keep food and water as well as sleeping areas downstairs if possible. Also, time outdoors may need to be cut down or only done when monitored since your dog may be more susceptible to changes in temperature and less able to fend off possible threats. Talk to your vet about any special accommodations you should make to ease his or her experience.
Just as you once puppy-proofed your home, you now need to provide your older dog with special accommodations. For dogs with hip dysplasia or joint issues, consider a special ramp or stairs so they can still get in the car or join you on the bed. Keep food and water in areas they can easily reach, especially if they are vision-impaired. Heated beds can soothe achy joints, particularly if you live in a colder climate. Finally, non-slip surfaces will prevent falls and help your older pet maintain traction when rising.
Try not to be sad
There is a wonderful story about a boy who didn’t shed a tear when his best furry friend closed his eyes for the very last time. He explained to his parents that dogs are angels who are so much smarter than us. They figure out things so quickly, those same things we spend our whole lives trying to decode. That is why their lifespan is so much shorter – they get to move on the next adventure much more quickly than we do. It doesn’t make the separation less sad, but it’s comforting to think so.
Takeaway – Embrace every day
Nothing is more important than prevention. Overall, remember that you don’t need to provide stimulation at this senior stage of their life. What you want to provide is relaxation. Give your dog a massage, help them when they need it (like using a ramp as you would for an elderly human who has difficulty getting upstairs), and be patient. Taking care of an older dog may involve a little more work than you’re used to doing but caring for a lifetime companion is a deeply rewarding experience. Your dog has been so good to you and the least you can do is pamper your furry angel during his or her golden years.
Enjoy this time and celebrate their life while you’re still lucky enough to have them near!