caring for older dogs

Enjoying Life with an Aging Dog

An aging dog – time to repay their loyalty

Much as we might wish it were otherwise, our beloved aging dog — who was only a pup just the other day, it seems — is going to hit her golden years sooner than we expect. Although we tend not to think of dogs as old until the signs become extremely obvious, we should be aware that, depending on the breed, your dog may be considered a senior citizen of the canine world from about the age of 7 and on. Smaller dogs tend to be longer lived and may not reach seniorhood until after the age of 10. Still, there is going to come a time when such items as orthopedic dog beds and even doggy diapers may be added to our shopping list.

aging dog

Image via Flickr

A Few Signs

The aging process for people and dogs is not really all that different. The issue is that we humans might not be as skillful at spotting the signs in other species. Dogs tend to get grayer and slower as they age. Hearing and vision might be significantly reduced. Arthritis is extremely common in aging dogs. Dogs are also not immune to dementia and may eventually exhibit much of the same confusion, incontinence, inappropriate behavior, and the rest of the symptoms that you may see in your own parents if they develop Alzheimer’s or another form of cognitive impairment.

What To Do

Again, dogs and people are not so different and what you do for your dogs as they age is not so different from what you should do for your parent as they age — though the dogs are likely to be a lot more cooperative. That’s especially true when it comes to exercise.

Unlike a lot of older people, most dogs love nothing more than to go outside and run around with us. While they will inevitably get less active as they age, encouraging most dogs to get more exercise is demonstrably easier than encouraging most of us sedentary humans to do so.

Also, watch your dog’s caloric intake. A fat dog isn’t better off than a fat person in regards to all kinds of health risks. As far as dieting is concerned, however, your dog has it easier than you because she can’t open the refrigerator. Your dog isn’t getting any food that you aren’t giving her.

There are also both drugs and supplements that can reduce and may even help prevent the onset of arthritis, including products containing glucosamine. Of course, you want to consult with your veterinarian about all the options that are available to help your aging dog feel as good as possible in regards to joint health, including orthopedic dog beds.

Finally, we probably don’t have to say this, but your dog also needs even more affection as she ages. Most of us have no problem lavishing love on our dog — indeed, this is sadly more of an issue with elderly people than with aging pets — but, as they age, it’s important we play with them and generally make sure they feel included and not “put out to pasture.”

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Caring For Older Dogs – When Time Is Running Out

Caring for older dogs – their special needs

Caring for older dogs – If you have an old dog, this article will help you understand what his needs are and how you can help him stay healthy for the time that he has left.

caring for older dogs(This article was written in memory of our dog Buddy who passed away July 1st 2011)

Older dogs require special care. They are slowing down and starting to feel tired. The lifespan of dogs varies greatly, it depends in part on breed, although many other factors play a role. A good start in life with proper care and a balanced diet as a puppy and young adult will do much to prolong the life of the adult dog to old age. With some extra care and, with regular monitoring visits to the vet and enough dog health care, your dog will remain healthy until the end of his life.

As his body ages, the dog’s vital organs are deteriorating. He is less active and therefore will need fewer calories. Organs may not function as well as they used to. As his pace slows down it’s hard to cope with disease or stress, so try to shield him from these as much as possible. With age, dogs are less active. Instead of running in front as he did in his youth, you will find that your dog is content to walk calmly at your side.

Caring for older dogs requires a bit of patience

You will need patience when caring for older dogs. Your dog may not hear you, or be able to see as well as he did. If he does not come when called, this does not mean that he’s deliberately ignoring you. He simply may be losing his hearing and didn’t hear your call.

As your dog becomes less mobile, he spends more time lying in one place. Make sure his favorite place is not exposed to damp or cold and is shaded from hot sun in the summer. If your dog lays down for too long on a hard or rough surface, especially if he’s a heavy dog, he may develop calluses on the joints. These can develop into ulcers and become infected, so make sure he has a thick comfortable padded surface on which to lie.

Make sure all your dog’s necessities like food and water are within easy reach. If he has difficulty climbing stairs, put up a barrier to prevent accidents. Remember that as the senses begin to dim, his sight, his hearing and sense of direction will never be the same again and he can easily become confused. Do not make too many major changes in his environment. And please don’t leave him alone too long, especially in places he’s not familiar with.

The annual vet visits are even more important when caring for older dogs. They are less resistant to disease and are less able to fight off infections. On these visits your vet will be able to examine your dog and check the status of the main vital organs such as skin, heart, kidneys and liver. He will also look for abnormal lumps in the abdomen and examine his mouth.

Medical conditions such as kidney disease can be detected and treated early before the onset of clinical symptoms by a simple blood test. Urine tests provide information on the health of your dog and you can bring a sample to the vet at the time of booster shots and check up. Use clean containers with screw tops to collect and transport urine. Your vet can give you a special bottle.

Some medical conditions such as kidney failure and heart disease require changing his diet. Your veterinarian can give you appropriate arrangements or he will advise you how to prepare a special diet at home. If your dog is incontinent, your vet can help. Often the cause is medical and treatable.

Make time to groom your dog, it will help them feel more comfortable. Brushing improves circulation under the skin and keeps the hair shiny and knot-free. Caring for your dog is also examining its fur in order to detect defects such as loss of hair, wounds, sores and signs of fleas or parasites.

Caring for older dogs also means recognizing when the time has come for him to leave you. The loss of a companion is never easy to live with and it is difficult to accept that your dog will not last forever. You can do your best – with patience and attention – to give him the ultimate gift, an end of life that is comfortable and happy. Caring for older dogs is a privilege rather than a chore.

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