Caring for a senior dog; what to keep in mind?
Just like humans, senior dogs may develop certain afflictions. Their body changes and so does the care they require. You can offer your dog a comfortable senior life by providing it with proper care. We will tell you all about it!
When is a dog considered to be senior?
A dog year is said to be the equivalent of around seven human years. This isn’t quite accurate since it differs considerably per breed as well as the size of the dog. Every dog ages at a different rate. Still, we tend to refer to dogs as being ‘senior’ starting at the age of around 7 years. It is difficult to say how old a dog will get, since smaller dogs tend to grow a bit older than larger dogs, which also differs per breed and even per individual dog.
How to recognise a senior dog?
Ageing humans tend to get grey hair. You may have spotted this in dogs as well. Some dogs will develop grey hair just like humans. Senior dogs can often be recognised by the fact that they become less active. Perhaps your dog tires more quickly than it used to. It may want to be walked less than before or may not be able to handle a long walk at all. Weight changes may also indicate that your dog is ageing.
What to keep in mind when your dog is ageing?
Just like humans, dogs tend to develop old age ailments. A senior dog may suffer from arthrosis, dental problems or infectious diseases as a result of an ageing immune system. Ageing dogs may also develop reduced vision due to cataracts. Other frequent problems are kidney failure, heart problems and an unhealthy coat. You can help with the latter by providing proper coat care. Not all dogs will develop these ailments, but it is recommended to keep an eye on your dog’s behaviour and health to make sure you can catch any issues early on.
Common old age ailments among dogs:
• Difficulty getting up
• Reduced interest in walks
• Difficulty walking, stiffness or lameness
• Shortness of breath (panting)
• Reduced appetite
• Increased drinking and urinating
• Bad breath
• Weight gain or loss
Arthrosis in senior dogs
Ageing dogs may develop issues with their muscles and bones. Worn joints are also referred to as arthrosis. Arthrosis is commonplace among ageing dogs. Dogs suffering from arthrosis may become stiff or lame when walking and have a reduced need for exercise. Arthrosis can be painful because the worn cartilage in the joints causes friction between bones. Dogs do not like to show their pain so make sure to be particularly alert when your dog begins to show stiffness or reduced mobility. If you suspect that your dog has arthrosis, get in touch with your vet. They can determine if arthrosis is indeed the issue and prescribe treatment, which is usually focused on pain management to help your dog experience its old age with as little pain and as much comfort as possible.
Weight loss and gains
Ageing dogs may experience changes in their weight. Old age ailments can cause reduced appetite which may lead to weight loss. Weigh your dog regularly if you suspect that it has been losing too much weight and try to make sure it still gets enough nutrients, for example by adjusting its diet. The opposite may happen as well. Ageing dogs can develop obesity as a result of certain ailments or simply because they become less active. Obesity can facilitate or exacerbate other ailments. If your dog is obese, you need to help it lose weight. We will explain the first steps below: proper nutrition and enough exercise.
The right diet
As you can probably imagine, a puppy has different nutritional needs than a mature dog. But did you know that the same applies to senior dogs? Each stage of life comes with its own ideal diet. Senior dogs tend to exercise less than young dogs and may develop muscle and joint problems. Once your dog becomes less active, it is time to switch to special food for senior dogs. Yarrah offers organic Senior food for senior dogs. This food packs less energy and contains ingredients such as horsetail, devil’s claw and rosehip, which help keep joints and muscles flexible. If your dog can’t chew as well as it used to, for example due to dental problems, consider switching to wet food. Yarrah offers various types of wet food, both canned and in 100g alu cups. Since wet food is softer, it is easier to consume for dogs with dental problems.
Senior dogs and exercise
Although senior dogs need less exercise, it remains very important that they exercise on a regular basis to keep their muscles flexible. Long walks and intense training may be out of the picture, but with some adjustments you can still enjoy physical exercise with your senior dog! This may involve
• Multiple short walks
• Swimming is ideal for senior dogs because it causes much less strain to muscles and joints.
• Play games, especially those that require a mental effort. This will ensure that your dog is still being challenged enough without causing too much physical strain.
It is recommended to keep a close eye on certain things when your dog is ageing, such as weight, coat and teeth. If you notice any changes in your dog’s behaviour, you can always consult your vet and ask for advice. This will allow you to catch any issues early on and make your dog’s final years as pleasant as possible!