Aging affects a dog’s needs. Being aware of the side effects of aging will help you care for your aging dog.
There are a lot of positives to having a dog as a family member, but it also has some downsides. The most frustrating aspect of having a dog as a family member is seeing them age rapidly. Senior dogs age at a rapid pace, and this is one of the worst parts. Most dogs enter their senior years around 7 years old, but larger breeds enter a little sooner. They may grow a little slower, become a little heavier, and lose their senses a little as a result of aging. An older canine’s behaviour will provide you with a lot of hints as to what they need, but it can be helpful to put it into words. If your senior dog could speak, these are the things he or she would most likely say.
‘My sight and hearing are both fading.’
Once a dog has lost his sight or hearing, owners often don’t notice the signs early on. You may discover that your dog doesn’t hear you calling or see the ball you threw in plain sight, although he may be ignoring you. If a person approaches a dog without the dog noticing, the dog may become defensive because he thinks someone is attacking him. The dog may also react defensively if someone touches him if it hurts arthritic or sensitive areas.
You can start using hand signals to prepare for a smooth transition to deafness if you have hearing loss. Hand signals would not be as significant if your dog was not able to hear anything. Dogs who are hard of hearing may still sense vibration, so you can capture their attention by clapping your hands, knocking on a hard surface, or some other noise-producing tactic.
There are several signs that may indicate an issue with your dog’s vision. Your dog may become clumsy, have difficulty finding food or water bowls, have a decreased desire to move around, or easily become startled if he has lost his sight. If your vet believes that your dog’s behaviour change is caused by a loss of vision, there are some steps you can take. For instance, you can remove clutter from the floor, mark distinct rooms with distinct smells or textured rugs to help your dog locate them by scent or feel, block off dangerous waters, and keep familiar furniture and food and water dishes in their usual locations.
‘My level of concern has risen a little.’
Senior dogs have a more difficult time handling stress. Prior to the situation, things that were not issues might now be, such as separation anxiety (anxiety at night because you are asleep and cannot observe them), visitors entering the home, new dog interactions, new noise phobias, or simply acting more irritable or irate than typical (Cooper, 2013). Some dogs might become more dependent while others might want to be left alone more often.
Agitated or violent behaviour in dogs may be a sign of a more serious medical problem, so it’s important to rule out medical issues if your pet seems disturbed. A visit to your vet immediately if you notice anxious or violent behaviour in your dog will help ensure that there are no serious medical issues.
It is unclear whether canine cognitive decline is a direct result of aging or whether it is due to other factors. Therefore, if it is a direct result of aging, you may help your pet reduce his anxiety by keeping the floors clear of clutter, taking more frequent brief walks, feeding him games or food puzzles to boost his mental stimulation, allowing him extra space away from strangers, establishing a routine that he knows what to anticipate during the day, and continuing to use separation training when you are away (or sleeping). Most importantly, you must be as patient as possible, since your dog can still sense your mood, which will increase his anxiety.
‘I am more sensitive to the cold now.’
There are several explanations why older dogs prefer to sleep on cozy beds. When outside on a cold day, dogs that normally hang around all day might require a sweater or more time indoors to stay warm. Keeping their bodies at a good temperature will help prevent joint and muscle stiffness, and even help prevent infections, as their bodies won’t be concerned only with staying warm. When the environment is cold, keep a close eye on your dog. If your dog appears chilled, there are a lot of jackets to keep him warm outside. While indoors, you may provide a heating pad that can be plugged in to provide continuous warmth. If your dog is outside, you can help him keep warm by putting his bed close to a heat source. It is important to watch that your dog does not get too warm, especially if you’re using an electric heating pad. Make sure that the blanket is not too hot.
‘I can’t move as well as I used to because my old doggie joints hurt me.’
An aging dog can suffer from a variety of joint issues, from old injuries that become more painful to advanced arthritis. Joint pain can severely impact an older dog’s quality of life, leading to problems such as difficulty getting in and out of cars or down the stairs. It’s important to start giving your dog chondroitin and glucosamine supplements as early as two years of age to keep joint issues at bay.
Joint pain can be alleviated with medication from a veterinarian. You can likewise make sure to walk your dog shorter but more often, provide him with an orthopedic bed and elevated water and food dishes, and provide other non-impactful exercises. When walking, avoid calling your dog if he is lying down unless it is necessary.
‘My appetite is the same, but I can’t burn calories as fast as I used to.’
Older dogs are at risk of developing a variety of health issues as a result of obesity, including joint pain, difficulty breathing, and heart and liver problems. In addition to losing energy and activity, their general caloric needs also shift as a result of their age.
As humans age, our metabolisms decrease and we require less food to keep a consistent weight. Dogs experience the same phenomenon. Their body isn’t burning calories the same way, so they gain weight. You might want to switch to senior dog food, which has less calories, more fibre, and less fat, as well as extra nutritional supplements. You might want to cut back on the treats you hand out throughout the day.
‘I may forget some of our old rules from time to time, because I get confused.’
Your senior dog may have difficulty with simple activities such as walking around obstacles or finding his way around unfamiliar locations or unfamiliar areas. He may have a harder time learning new tricks or performing tasks as a result of cognitive decline. A reduction in cognitive ability is common in older dogs. In addition to being house-trained, he may forget many other behaviors due to cognitive impairment. You may notice bathroom accidents more frequently. One important thing to remember is that if your pet begins to act strangely or displays a changed behavior, take him to the veterinarian to ensure everything is okay. Even if aging is the culprit, you can assist your dog with medications and supplements as well as with patience and assistance if he gets lost or confused.
‘I require a bit more grooming these days.’
As dogs age, their skin, coat, and even their nails may change. Their skin may become dry and their hair coarser as a result of it. A supplement of coconut oil or salmon oil with meals can help to alleviate this problem. The skin may become more thin as a result of this, which could make injury more likely. When a dog is playing or hiking, it is important to take extra care to prevent injury. Nails may also become brittle as a result of ageing. The dog’s nails must be trimmed more frequently because his nails aren’t worn down via activities, so it is critical to take extra care during pedicures.
An older dog may not be as capable or as likely to groom himself, so you may need to brush his coat more often to keep him clean. You can bond with your dog while doing this, as well as check for any new lumps, bumps, or aches that your dog might be experiencing.
An aging senior dog requires even more attention as well as dental care to prevent gum disease, a diet that satisfies all of his unique nutritional demands, and monitoring for liver disease, diabetes, and other typical aging problems. Despite the fact that it seems like a lot of work to care for your dog as he ages, it has its own rewards, including knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to help a friend who has relied on you since day one.