Dog owners know that elderly animals need different care than puppies. As dogs age, they slow down, may struggle to sit, stand, or climb stairs, and don’t play like they used to. When this happens, it’s important to do all you can to support him and make sure he is comfortable and safe. You should work with your vet to ensure he has all the proper nutrition and supplements he needs, and make any modifications to your home to make life easier for him, all while remaining patient and loving. Consider these tips as you begin to care for your senior dog.
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- Talk to Your Vet about Your Dog’s Nutrition
It’s just as true for your dog as it is for you that, “We are what we eat.” Senior dogs need an age-appropriate diet to maintain their health. There is not one magic formula for every senior dog. That’s why you should work with your veterinarian and conduct research to determine whether a diet higher in fat or protein is better for your senior dog.
Don’t make any major changes to your dog’s nutrition and/or diet overnight. Slowly adjusting a dog’s diet (especially an older dog) is a better method to help overall health and ensure the transition to the new diet is a success.
Talking to your vet is also important because they will consider your pet’s full range of health, rather than just age, when helping you determine how to care for your senior dog’s nutritional needs. For example, your vet will consider whether your canine companion has been gaining weight or losing weight as they age and whether they has any dental issues that will dictate the type of food that is best for them.
Your vet may also decide to put your senior dog on a regimen of joint supplements, like DGP, because many older dogs’ joint mobility and flexibility may require some support. Hip and joint problems are common in senior dogs; and you’ll likely notice signs such as your dog having trouble getting up and down, being slow or stiff when moving, having difficulty climbing stairs, experiencing joint swelling or excessive panting, limping, holding a leg off the ground frequently, or favoring one leg.
- Modify Your Home to Accommodate Your Elderly Pet
Aging animals need to be as comfortable as possible at home, so be prepared to make some home modifications to accommodate them as they age. One simple modification is to raise their food and water dishes if your pet has trouble lowering their neck to eat and drink.
Some dog owners choose to elevate the bowls using items from around the house, such as a shoebox or milk crate, while others opt to purchase a raised platform made to hold the bowls. Also consider placing more fresh, clean water around your home for your aging pet to give them more access to water if they have mobility challenges.
If your dog has joint issues or arthritis symptoms, buy or build ramps to modify your stairs or to help them access your couch, chair, bed, or other furniture that they enjoys sitting and lying on. If you are concerned about your dog slipping, install anti-slip treads on your stairs or their new ramp. Such treads can be made of carpet or rubber. Keep in mind, however, that if your canine companion is having trouble climbing stairs, you may not want to care for your senior dog by encouraging him not to do so at all. If that is the case, place their dog bed, toys, food and water bowls on the first floor of your home and install a gate across the bottom of your stairs to deter them from attempting to climb.
- Be as Patient and Loving as Possible
Remaining patient and loving will help your dog transition to senior life. When your dog can no longer run and play with you as he did in their younger years, find new ways to engage. For instance, purchase a dog stroller so you can continue to enjoy walks with your dog even after walking becomes difficult.
You might also consider buying softer toys that are easier on your pet’s teeth and mouth. Rather than throwing them for a game of fetch, hold them in your hand and play a gentle game of tug of war with your dog.
Enjoying the time your senior dog has left is a priority for dog lovers. That’s why you should talk to your vet about nutrition, modify your home to accommodate their changing needs, be as patient and loving as possible, and other ways to properly care for your senior dog.
Image via Pixabay by Lepale
About the Author
Cindy Aldridge is a dog enthusiast who enjoys blogging about new furry additions in your home. Check out her blog at Our Dog Friends to learn more about your loyal companions.