Any person who's ever had a puppy knows what a steep learning curve it is! We attend puppy school, watch training videos and put hours into caring and learning how to care for our new fur babies.
Years later, when those puppies become seniors, once again they need a load of extra care and support. Unfortunately at that time, there's no where near as much help or information.
Many of us aren’t prepared for the changes that happen to our pets as they age, and we’re a bit in the dark about how to support them.
Like humans, as animals get older, they experience physical and mental changes. As pet owners, we need to understand what changes to expect so we can take action to support our pets and keep them as healthy and comfortable as long as possible. Here are some steps to get started...
Typical signs your dog is feeling his or her age are:
A general slowing of energy and activity
More time sleeping
Greying whiskers, reduced coat quality; coarser hair, less of it
Changing body composition (less muscle, more fat)
Lumps and bumps – often benign, but always need checking
Hearing and vision loss, cloudy eyes and cataracts
Increasing joint pain, stiffness, arthritis
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? They’re not so unlike us after all!
When to expect signs of aging in your dog:
Different dogs and different breeds age at different rates, and smaller dogs generally live longer than larger animals.
But life expectancy is not the same as aging. The signs above are normal aspects of getting older but other factors influence the health of your aging pet. Breed, diet, weight, environmental factors, injuries and more affect well and how quickly your dog ages.
How to care for your older dog
At least annually, more as needed. This helps with everything on the list: You can address diet, weight, dental care, joint health and maintain vaccinations, flea, tick and heartworm control. You can also address potential health concerns before they become a problem.
Dogs’ digestion slows with age. They need food that’s easy to digest and maintains the vitamins, minerals and quality protein needed for muscle mass. Talk to your vet and introduce diet change slowly, and specifically, according to their needs.
As with humans, overweight dogs have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and skin issues. Work with your vet to monitor diet and weight, especially if your pet is overweight.
They may not have the same energy, but movement remains essential for mobility, mental and social health and weight management. Your dog may need shorter, more frequent walks with more stopping. Watch for signs of fatigue and don’t push them too hard.
Older dogs have trouble regulating their temperature. They’re more prone to extremes of cold and heat. If walking outdoors in winter, make sure they are rugged up. When hot, make sure they have access to shade and water and avoid exercising in the heat of the day. At home, you’ll need to make sure they have somewhere warm to rest. (That’s why we recommend Pet Mat for older pets).
Grooming is more important than ever. Brushing your pet’s fur is comforting, keeps their coat in better condition and allows you to check them for skin infections, irritations, bumps and lumps. Clipping toenails is vital as nails get longer without regular exercise and can hinder safe movement. Dental care becomes more important too, as oral infections can spread through the bloodstream to the rest of the body. Older pets are much more susceptible to this.
Caring for older pets is a team effort between yourself and your vet, but it’s totally worth your time, effort and budget (!) to make your pet’s golden years comfortable and happy as they make you!
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