The term “senior dog” doesn’t have an exact definition as far as what age constitutes a dog being “senior,” however it’s safe to assume when they reach the 7-8 year human mark they can start exhibiting senior signs. Often times senior dogs are a better fit for owners because most have a calmer demeanor and are easier to maintain than say a puppy. However, caring for a senior dog takes some knowledge, effort and patience. Most senior dogs have special needs that their younger counterparts don’t have. So if you’ve just adopted or bought a senior dog or your dog is getting a big older, here are some tips that might help….
Cutting back on exercise – human beings are big on exercise and we’re also big on getting our dogs exercise. Let’s face it. It’s healthy and the right thing to promote. However as a dog ages these activities need to be scaled back a bit to accommodate their aging. For example, take more frequent shorter walks rather than a long run. If you run with your dog 4 times a week, scale back to twice and so on.
Changing the Diet – As your dog gets older their digestive system changes. What they were once able to digest may no longer be the case. Also remember that their metabolisms have slowed so they might not be in need of as much calories. Watch to see how your dogs are eating and make adjustments.
Keep vet checks consistent – Once your dog is old enough it’s imperative that you make yearly vet checkups at a minimum. When your dog gets older they tend to develop more skin issues, lumps, or bumps on the body. Without a vet to check these out your dog could be at risk. Also be sure to watch for potential signs of trouble like shortness of breath or fatigue. Essentially these are the same signals you’d watch for in elderly humans.
Rehab can be good – There are more and more canine rehab and physical therapy facilities available these days, such as water treadmills, electrical stimulation, laser therapy, and exercise modalities using balance balls. You can also take preventative measures like keeping your dog stimulated both in mind and body to prevent the brain from aging.
Watch for Mental Changes – There is such a thing as dog dementia and disorders that are similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. Watch out for things like forgetfulness or disorientation. Your dog might be looking for his dog bowl more than usual or find himself in unusual spots for long periods of time. It’s important to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary compared to their normal routines.
Thanks to Dogster for helping us write this article