The typical lifespan of a dog is approximately 13 years with variations depending on size and breed. Regardless of these variables, aging dogs require special care that is very similar to that of an elderly person. Here are a few tips for the owners of older dogs that will ensure healthy aging for their faithful friends.
Schedule annual veterinarian check ups
An annual vet’s visit will take care of any known health issues and reveal illness that might not be observable. The veterinarian will check your dog’s vision, teeth, joints, mobility, and order blood tests. A conventional veterinarian’s treatment will include prescription drugs. Holistic vets use natural foods, herbs, and supplements. Some holistic veterinarians may even include acupuncture in their treatment plan. If the symptoms of any disease manifests itself before the due date of the annual check up, the veterinarian must be consulted.
Strengthen your dog’s immune system
Nutritious food and supplements play a vital role in maintaining the health of your dog’s immune system. Purchase pet foods from health food stores or buy quality brands at regular supermarkets. Since older dogs require more nutrition but less food, these foods should be rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Adding supplements and yogurt to your dog’s diet will help prevent sluggish digestion and deter unhealthy bacteria. Since synthetic vitamins absorb much more slowly, it would be better to give your dog supplements that are derived from whole food sources. Treats for aging dogs should be low in fat, high in fiber, and packed with nutrition. If many teeth are gone or going, foods should be softer.
Care for your dog’s joints
Older dogs experience joint pain in their hips and back legs. A veterinarian can prescribe medication for this problem or you can use glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. A cheaper option is a low dose aspirin pill. Consult your veterinarian for dosage amounts and frequency.
Make your dog comfortable
Just as older people require more comfort, older dogs need more pampering. Manufacturers now provide dog owners with an array of dog beds including orthopedic, heating, and cooling beds. Dog beds are designed for the well-being of your dog in every situation and are available in every imaginable shape and size. If you cannot afford a special bed, a soft cushion or a foam rubber mattress will be just as comfortable. If your aging dog has an outdoor kennel with concrete flooring, consider replacing it with rubber flooring. This type of flooring provides warmth and a non-slip surface for dogs with joint discomfort and walking difficulties. Kennels should be clean and free from dampness or draft. If artificial heat is installed in the dog’s kennel it should be safe, foolproof, and dog-proof. Electric wiring should not be exposed and stoves should be safely secured from tipping over.
Keep your dog close to home
When dogs age many of them become senile and experience vision problems. Aging dogs also walk slower and may be confused. They are more likely to get hit by a motorist, attacked by other dogs or larger animals, fall into ditches, or wander too far away from home to return. One way to keep your dog at home is to use an electronic collar. Electronic collars allow you to get your dog’s attention at a distance by emitting a light corrective “static” shock similar to the feeling you get from static electricity produced by friction. These remote-controlled collars have a wide radius range and are a great asset when your dog is inclined to stray beyond the boundaries of your property. Another option would be to keep an aging dog in a kennel when you’re not home or use a traditional or ‘invisible’ fence system.
An aging dog no longer has the agility and energy of a younger dog. As the aging process becomes quite evident, the owner should become more considerate of the dog’s weaknesses, procrastinations, and lapses. Old dogs “slow down” much as humans do. If your dog does not show any interest in doing some things that you both enjoyed doing together, lower your expectations. Discover new interests with your dog. Instead of taking him on hikes, be content to go on a slow walk or let him sit and watch you do an outdoor project. Above all, give your dog a lot of tender care and patience.