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7 tips to care for your senior dog

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
7 tips to care for your senior dog

Is your dog a senior citizen? Like us, dogs tend to develop age-related conditions as they grow older.

Not all dogs age at the same pace. Your dog’s true age depends on their size and breed, as different breeds have different typical lifespans. As a general rule of thumb, larger breeds grow old more quickly. Giant breeds become seniors as early as 6 years, while miniature breeds may not become seniors until they are 10 to 12 years old. A quick search online will tell you about your specific breed’s lifespan, and talking with your vet will give you insight into your specific dog is aging.

Providing the right love, care, and treatment for our pets as they age is important – it can help them live for many more fulfilling and happy years.

7 health considerations for your senior dog

Watch for signs that your dog is experiencing pain or difficulty. It’s always a good idea to consult with your vet if you’re not sure whether your dog has developed any age-related conditions.

1. Sensitivity to the Cold

Make sure your older dog is protected from the cold weather, especially in the winter.

You can use a sweater or waterproof coat and boots for walks in the cold, and give your pup a warm water foot bath when you get home. If there is snow, slush, or salt outside, the warm water footbath is particularly helpful.

2. Decreased Hearing

Pets lose their hearing with age, just as people do. Of course – a hearing aid isn’t practical for a dog!

Be patient with your aging dog if they are losing their hearing. If you call them but they can’t hear you, try to get their attention by clapping your hands. When you come inside the house, avoid startling them by stomping your feet; that way they can feel the floor vibrate and they’ll know you’re there.

3. Decreased Sight

Like your dog’s hearing, their eyesight may also suffer with age. If your dog has difficulties seeing you, wave your hands and create more movement for their eyes to register. If you’re walking your dog at night, illuminate the sidewalk with a flashlight a few feet ahead to help them see where they’re going.

Although humans often have cataract surgery, and even younger dogs do sometimes, it’s not a good option for senior dogs because surgery causes unnecessary stress and their condition may continue to worsen even after surgery.

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4. Chronic Aches and Pains

Chronic pains, such as arthritis, are common in senior dogs. If your dog is experiencing chronic pain, you can find subtle signs, including becoming quiet, withdrawn, or less active. If you think your dog may be suffering from chronic aches, there are pain management treatments available.

Dogs suffering from ongoing pain will benefit from a soft bed, such as one made from foam, for sleeping and resting.

5. Food Quality

In your dog’s later years, the quality of their food can have a dramatic impact on the quality of their life. Be sure you’re feeding your dog the right food for their advanced age, which will be different from the food designed for younger dogs.

If your dog has a specific illness like kidney disease or diabetes, seek out a specialty food designed for their condition.

6. Exercise

Even older dogs who have trouble being active need at least some exercise. As dogs age, they need to maintain their muscle mass. Take your dog for long daily leash walks and let them go at their own pace.

7. Grooming

Senior dogs typically have more matted coats and their nails can grow too long and break if they aren’t walking around as much. Regular brushing, grooming, and nail clipping will give them the care they need.

These simple tips will improve the quality of your dog’s final years and allow you to fully enjoy the rest of your time together.

About the Author: Daniel Mudrick, DVM, founded a state-of-the-art 24/7 veterinary hospital in Mississauga, Ontario. He has been featured in local news stories and radio programs for his expert knowledge of animal health. clarksonvillagevet.com

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