I have written a post previously about looking after a new puppy, but it is also essential to be aware of the changing needs of older dogs. In this post, I’ll be breaking down all the need-to-know information about older dogs.
Our dogs are our family, so we want to ensure they live the best and happiest life at every stage of their life.
What Age Is Considered Old For A Dog?
A Dog is commonly considered ‘older’ when they become middle-aged, which is when the are seven years of ages and above.
What Changes To Notice?
As your dog ages they tend to have less energy, this means the fat they consume is more difficult to burn off. The treats they could easily run off as a puppy start to catch up with them. In other cases, your dog may lose weight due to illness or poor digestion.
A common behavior change you may notice is your dog having difficulty sleeping and becoming restless at night due to their sleep patterns changing as they age. Physical changes you may notice is grey hairs appearing, their coat losing its shine and less elastic skin.
Although, some of these symptoms may seem worrying they are all normal signs of ageing, many of these symptoms can also be related to human signs of ageing. These signs are something to be aware of, but there are constant developments in medicine and treatments to help reduce discomfort and stress, which will help to maintain your dog’s quality of life.
To work out how much you should feed your dog, you should weigh them regularly. If you notice they are gradually putting more weight on each time you weigh them, it is worth discussing with your vet about reducing their portion sizes. They are likely to be putting weight on due to being less active, so you must adapt their diet to fit how they are changing.
Likewise, if you are noticing your dog losing weight, this could be caused by an illness or trouble chewing and swallowing their usual food, so it is worth consulting your vet to check their general health, and to see what foods may be more suitable.
A dog’s diet depends on their breed and size, but there are specialized diets which are catered especially for older dogs. These diets account for the fact that the dogs are less active and provide the right amount of nutrients while using fewer calories.
Although they’re getting older, they will still require regular exercise to keep the weight off, it also allows them to explore and socialize with other dogs. Keep their daily exercise constant but for shorter periods.
For example, taking them out twice a day for twenty to thirty minutes. It is also recommended that you provide them with a coat for walks in the winter months, this will provide them with more protection from contracting illnesses.
Your dog’s dental health is vital at all stages of life. However, bad dental health can lead to infections which as dogs get older and their immune systems become reduced, may be more difficult to fight off. To maintain your dog’s dental health, their teeth must be thoroughly cleaned.
To do this use a Susi’s Scrubber Dog Finger Toothbrush, it is much easier to use instead of a rigid toothbrush due to the flexible material. To use the tooth scrubber simply slide the tooth scrubber onto your finger, hold the attached string to give you control and gently scrub your dog’s teeth pearly white.
It is reassuring to know that this scrubber is gently on the skin and doesn’t hurt but instead massages the gums. This scrubber is also recommended and used by vets.
While grooming your dog’s coat, be gentle and take the time to check for bumps and any aches they may be suffering with. If you notice anything unusual, consult your vet. It is also worth taking your vet to get their nails cut more regularly if they are exercising less, to prevent future discomfort.
To maintain your dog’s quality of life their home must be catered to adapt their changing needs. To ensure this provide a soft dog’s bed for them, as they get older, they will spend more time here. They are also likely to go here for rest more often, so put their bed somewhere that is quiet and away from draughts.
If your dog seems stiffer and slower as they age, install a ramp over stairs, to make their home/garden still accessible to them. It is also beneficial to have everything they need easily accessible such as their water, food and toys, this place is likely to be near their bed.
Common Issues For Older Dogs
Your Dog Becoming Stiff Particularly In The Mornings
This is certainly common with age your dog’s joint function will deteriorate. Arthritis is also common as dogs age. To help your dog with stiffness don’t take your dog out if they are looking noticeably stiff to the point of discomfort, instead provide them with a soft bed to rest in.
Also, physiotherapy and medicines are available to them which may help to reduce discomfort and allow them to be more active.
Your Dog May Seem Confused
Like Humans as dog’s age their brains change, like humans who have Alzheimer’s disease. You may notice a change in behavior because of this, such as delayed time in responding to you calling their name.
Similar drugs used to treat humans with Alzheimer’s have been used on dogs with positive results. If you think your dog may be suffering from memory loss this medicine may be suitable for them.
It also beneficial to keep your dog mentally stimulated throughout their life, you can do this with their toys and puzzle feeders – this will also help to keep older dogs entertained if they are not able to go outside as frequently.
More Frequent Need For The Toilet
This is a normal trait for an older dog. To make their life easier ensure they have regular access to their toilet area. Also, moving their bed where they spend the most time closer to their toilet area can help prevent accidents from occurring.