Like humans, dogs get older. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still enjoy a full life. When your dog is aging you need to take a few precautions. If you do, there’s no reason why the two of you can’t still have good times together and enjoy each other’s company.
The age at which a dog can be considered old depends on its size and breed. In general, the bigger the dog, the faster it ages. Small breeds like a Pomeranian only reach old age when they’re about 11 years old, while giant breeds like a Grey Dane is considered old by the time they’re six years old. Medium and big dogs fall in between these two. The dog’s general health and genetics will however also play a role.
What are the signs that your dog is getting older?
The first sign is usually when it becomes less active. It may be satisfied with shorter walks and less time playing. It’ll spend more and more time sleeping and just lazing around.
The dog may also experience difficulty getting up and down steps and climbing into a car for instance. Not being able to move as freely as before is usually an indication of stiff joints and/or arthritis.
When a dog’s teeth haven’t been cared for, it may also experience dental problems and may even loose some teeth. Other problems may include kidney, liver or heart diseases. Your dog may also loose its appetite as well as weight.
On the other side of the coin, many older dogs gain weight as they become less active but still eat the same amount of food. Like humans, they can become couch potatoes, eat too much and become obese.
Tips to help you care for your older dog.
- Keep your dog’s weight in check. This will prevent a host of health problems, expensive vet bills and help it to move easier as it becomes older. Prevention is better than cure, so try and keep your dog at its ideal weight throughout its life.
- Feed your dog an appropriate diet. If you have an overweight dog, your vet can advise a suitable diet to ensure it gets all the necessary nutrients while still losing weight. A dog with heart or kidney problems will need a specialized diet. Otherwise, make sure you feed the dog a high-quality diet recommended for older dogs.
- Consider adding fatty acids like DHA and EPA to your dog’s diet. They are particularly beneficial for dogs with arthritis and joint problems.
- Visit your vet regularly. At least once a year, but more often if the dog has health problems. Also, ask the vet to evaluate the dog’s weight and give you advice if it’s needed.
- Keep the dog’s teeth healthy. Regular brushing is a good idea, and let it become a habit to keep its mouth clean and sweet smelling. Dental treats and toys that keep the teeth clean is also a good idea.
- Keep it busy. Your dog is not too old for toys, particularly things like food puzzles that will keep its mind occupied.
- Update its accommodation. Keep it away from slippery surfaces like tiles as it’s bad for arthritic Use a ramp if needed and make sure it has soft and warm bedding.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Just because the dog has slowed down doesn’t mean it can’t benefit from the appropriate exercise. Start slowly if it’s not used to regular exercise, and ask your vet for advice if in doubt. The fact is that getting out and active is as beneficial for your dog as it is for you. And think about the quality time you two spend together! The important issue is to find an appropriate exercise that will be suited for your dog.
You may not want to see that your trusted friend is getting on in years, but acknowledging the fact and dealing with it in an appropriate and matter of fact way, can bring many hours of enjoyment to both of you.
1Salomi is a contributing blogger ,dog lover and avid learner.