Thanks to our love of animals, our pets are living longer lives than nature ever intended. In the wild, our dogs would have to fight everyday for food, shelter, and to avoid injury. In most cases, most of the wild canines don’t live long after reaching old age. However, the shelter and care that we provide our pets are making it possible for them to reach old age. With this new horizon, however comes a host of health concerns and potential problems. If you’re caring for an elderly dog, here are a few simple things that you can do to make sure they continue to live a healthy and enjoyable life.
Tip # 1 Visit the Vet Regularly
Unlike humans, which can sometimes die suddenly, most of the diseases that claim the lives of our dogs are usually ones that develop over time. Problems such as bloat, arthritis, allergies, and even cancer do not come on suddenly, so regular visits to your vet can often detect them before they become unmanageable.
Tip # 2 Change their Diet and How They Eat
As your dog ages, their dietary needs will change as well. Their need for high protein dog food will decrease, and their will be a greater need for liver and kidney support. Plus, chances are your dog’s teeth and mouth isn’t as strong as they were when he was younger. All these factors, along with a slower metabolism contribute to a loss of appetite and changes in eating habits.
So the first step is to make sure your dog is eating food that is good for him. Many brands today offer dog food that is specially designed for the digestive system of an elderly dog. Check with your vet; he or she should be able to direct you to a quality brand. Once you found something that is good for your dog, make it more appealing by warming it up to body temperature, or offering canned food to ease the strain on their teeth.
Once you’ve found the proper dog food, it’s a good idea to change how they eat as well. If you’re used to leaving the food available all day, it’s a good idea to get them on a specific feeding time. This small step is essential for a few reasons. One, as a dog ages, his or her control of their bowel or urinary movements, so having food available throughout the day can potentially lead to accidents. Also, your dog’s joints might make it difficult to reach a food bowl placed on the ground. One way to make it easier on them while eating is to raise their food bowl to shoulder height.
Tip # 3 Get Regular Exercises
In one sense, dogs and their joints act much the same way that yours do. If your dog has arthritic joints, regular exercise and movement can help to make sure that the joints remain lubricated and flexible. In addition, the exercise will help them lose weight, and relieve some of their discomfort. It will also help both of you out of the house and to spend time together. The wagging tail of your dog should tell you how much he enjoys it.
Like any new exercise program, it’s important to start slow. Short, slow and frequent walks are probably the best way to go. Another option is to take your dog for a swim in the local pond if they like water. Swimming is a great low to no impact aerobic workout for your pet.
Tip # 5 Recognize Mental Changes
The physical signs of aging are easy to see. Your dog’s muzzle will most likely grey, their walk will become a little slower, and they probably won’t jump and play as much as before. There are mental and physical changes as well. Over time, your dog’s ability to think and act quickly will change. He or she might get easily confused, and they will often seek to stay near your side. In addition, older dogs will often react to unknown stimuli by barking or growling. They also will have a slower reaction time and often become easily irritable when first woken up or if changes are introduced into their environment.
The best thing that you can do to make your dog more comfortable is to make sure that they have a set and recognizable routine. Try to feed them at the same time everyday, give them regular exercise times, and make sure they have comfortable places to rest. Also, restrict the number of new stimuli introduced into the dog’s environment. Very few older dogs can handle such things as small children or a new puppy if they are not used to them on a regular basis.
Caring for an elderly dog is a fact of life for many pet owners. By following these few simple tips, and listening to your vet as well as your dog, you can be sure to provide your dog with a wonderful and comfortable life in his later years.