Health and Wellness for Older Dogs
If you are lucky enough to have a dog who is getting older, it probably means that you have spent a lifetime together. You have played with your dog, spent time petting him, and you know him better than anyone. You may have a bond with each other that is hard to describe. So, now that your dog is starting to age, it’s up to you to care for him and make him as comfortable as possible. There are some simple things you can do to make your dog’s senior years much easier.
Senior Veterinary Visits
You can start taking your dog for senior vet visits each year. These visits involve more than just getting your dog’s vaccinations. Your vet can take a complete blood panel for your dog and run some tests to make sure his organs are functioning normally. Your dog can have a urinalysis done to make sure his kidneys are functioning properly. And your vet can do a few other tests to make sure everything is working normally for your dog as he gets older. Assuming everything looks good, then your dog will have some baseline tests on file.
Breeds that normally live a long time, such as some of the Toy breeds, can begin having a senior vet visit when they are 8-10 years old. Some of the Giant breeds, such as the Irish Wolfhound, which have a shorter lifespan, can start to have a senior vet visit when they are as young as five years old. Dogs with a lifespan somewhere in between can start having a senior vet visit when they are around 7 years of age. These annual visits can help your vet notice a health problem before it becomes more serious in many cases.
Addressing Nutrition Challenges
At home you should pay attention to your dog as he gets older and notice any changes in his behavior or eating habits. Although dog food companies often encourage owners to buy “lite” dog food for senior dogs, or food that contains fewer calories, on the theory that senior dogs are overweight, in actuality many senior dogs can start to lose weight as they get older. Their senses, including their sense of taste, may begin to dull, and they may not eat as much as they once did. You can encourage your aging dog to eat more by topping off his meals with something tasty such as a few spoonfuls of stew, some canned dog food, some yogurt, or a few pieces of steak or chicken. Anything that is tasty and which smells good can encourage your senior dog to eat a little more.
In some cases an aging dog may not be interested in eating as he gets older because he has some dental problems. Many dogs start to have problems with their teeth as they age. If your older dog stops eating, check his teeth, or ask your vet to look in your dog’s mouth and see if he has some dental problems. Your vet can remove a decayed tooth and your dog’s appetite can quickly return to normal.
Aging dogs can also have problems with arthritis and mobility. Most experts agree that adding glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to your dog’s diet can help mild to moderate arthritis and joint problems in dogs (and humans). This may be something you should consider for your older dog if he has problems with his joints. Hi-Potency Joint Recovery is a great product for this purpose.
You can also help your aging dog by making sure he has a comfortable place for sleeping. Orthopedic dog beds are very helpful for aging dogs. They come with various features. Some beds have memory foam that keep your dog’s shape, making it easier for him to get up and down; some beds are heated which help dogs with arthritis; and many beds have washable covers, in case your dog has an accident. Check out the various features and you can see which bed might be good for your dog.
Finally, if your aging dog is having problems getting around in your home because you have hardwood floors, you can tape down area rugs on your floors so he will have something to grip when he walks. Use some double-sided tape beneath the rugs and they should stay in place. Or, you can purchase doggy boots for your dog which provide traction. Most dogs only need to wear boots on their back paws to get the traction they need when they walk.
There are lots of things you can do to help your aging dog live a longer, healthier and more comfortable life. Use some of these suggestions, and try to look for solutions when your dog has problems. Your dog will thank you.