Aging. It is an inevitable process. One that’s timeline seems to steepen a lot further for our pets than it does for ourselves.
As our pets age, they begin to require certain care that wasn’t necessary for their younger years.
Taking care of senior dogs can be taxing. There are so many factors at play, but your pet’s comfort is paramount.
You must always consider the quality of life of your older pet.
Provided here are guidelines for caring for your senior dog.
How should you adjust your dog’s diet as they age?
For a senior dog, diet is all about listening to their body.
Their GI tolerability may change, maybe their teeth are more sensitive, and they need to switch to softer foods.
It is key to pay attention. For senior dogs, it is important to make sure they are:
- Supplied with ample vitamins and minerals
- Their GI tolerability is maintained through probiotics and gut sensitive foods
- Not overfed
- Not underfed
What is the right level of exercise for senior dogs?
It is difficult to gauge the right level of exercise for your senior dog.
You have to find the perfect balance between too much and not enough.
Something you have to keep in mind when determining the appropriate exercise level for your senior dog is:
- How active were they throughout their life?
- Does physical activity look like it puts them in pain?
- Are they showing disinterest in going on walks or playing fetch?
The primary focus in keeping your dog mobile is to make sure they’re staying happy.
The quality of your senior dog’s life should always be the primary focus.
It’s ill-advised to push a dog into more physical activity than their body will allow.
You have to listen to your pet’s body if their hips are shaking or walking them puts them in a compromised stance, and the gait is abnormal, maybe it is time to start exploring other ways of keeping them active.
Hydrotherapy and swimming have been shown to promote mobility and decrease impact on bones and joints.
Bone and Joint Health
Possibly the biggest factor in determining the appropriate exercise regimen and keeping your senior dog mobile is paying keen attention to their bone and joint health.
Some signs you may begin to see in older dogs include:
- Muscle weakness
- Hind leg trembling
- Hip dysplasia
- Ways to help your pet maintain mobility
- Instead of turning to medication to ease your pet’s pain, try massage and rehabilitation
- OMEGAs and collagen-rich foods to support elasticity
- Alkaloid supplements to reduce inflammation, such as turmeric
Coat and Skin Health
As your dog ages, you may find the integrity of their once wet noses begins to decline.
Most commonly, as dog’s age, they develop drier noses, dry patches on elbows, and dry paw pads.
As one could imagine, the dryness can be highly irritating for your dog, especially if the dry spot begins to crack and bleed.
It’s important to take care of these patches to prevent the impending discomfort.
There are a lot of different balms and butter on the market targeted at keeping noses and paws hydrated.
Or you can turn to something as simple as coconut oil or lanolin.
If their dryness has progressed to the point where their skin is raw, cracked, or bleeding- it is important to make sure you are washing the affected areas with some antibiotic soap, followed by a balm or butter, to prevent infection.
Another skin sensation you may notice on your aging pet is the development of hot spots or moist dermatitis. Hot spots can be brought on by some factors:
- Allergic Reactions
- Bug Bites
- Poor Grooming
- Ear/Skin Infections
- Stress or Boredom
Often treating hot spots can be as simple as applying a simple topical treatment and mediating your pets underlying health.
Prompting their diet with foods high in omega 3’s and probiotics will target their immune support and overall skin health.
Lumps and Bumps
When is there a cause for concern?
When it comes to finding lumps and bumps on your senior dog BE DILIGENT.
Finding a mass while petting your pooch may be alarming.
A lot of times there is little cause for concern, but you should always have masses checked by your veterinarian.
Lipomas vs. Liposarcomas
Some of these bumps, lipomas, are benign fatty masses and are cause for little concern. Lipomas are often moveable and seem in a way ‘detached’ under the skin.
Liposarcomas, on the other hand, are malignant.
They can mimic the appearance of a lipoma, but they are often metastatic and can spread to vital organs.
How do you distinguish between the two?
Veterinarians will often biopsy the masses found on your dog, and be able to quickly determine the benign vs. metastatic status of their growth.
Masses are common in most dog breeds, and their prevalence increases with age.
That is why it is important to establish a lump check regimen.
Any new growths are something that may warrant a visit to your local vet.
Throughout your dog’s life, it is important to have them on an oral cleaning regimen.
Everyone can admit they’ve been face to face with a dog with horrible breath.
Their panting or attempted kisses could often be stomach churning. Proper oral hygiene for your pet can help to keep bad breath at bay, and also save your thousands of dollars on vet bills.
If your pet’s oral hygiene has gone beyond the point of no return, often they will have abscessed or rotting teeth that need to be pulled, and it does not come cheap.
Abscessed teeth can lead to systemic infections and even sepsis.
The number one piece of advice is: START EARLY.
Beginning when they’re a puppy, establish teeth cleaning regimen.
Brushing, raw bone feeding, and the right type of healthy bones can help to save your dog’s dental health.
How to Make their Later Years Some of their Best Years
Taking care of a senior dog is helping them maintain and improve their overall quality of life.
Although seeing our beloved pets age can weigh heavy, we must keep in mind their happiness.
There is no reason we as pet owners can’t make their later years some of their best years, with accommodating diets, moderated exercise regimens, and bone/joint/skin/dental maintenance.
1. Dobias, P. 2017. Dr. Dobias Natural Healing. [Internet] Accessed 27 Oct 2017. https://peterdobias.com
2. Malani, P.N. When you Love an Old Dog, Managing Care can be a Challenge. [Internet] Accessed 30 Oct 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/02/25/515610795/when-you-love-an-old-dog-managing-care-can-be-a-challenge
3. Merck. 2017. Merck Manual: Veterinary Manual. Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, Nj. [Internet] Accessed 27 Oct 2017. http://www.merckvetmanual.com/