Caring for older dogs
On average dogs live for around 12 years, although many live for much longer. Over the years you can expect your dog to change, not just physically but mentally also. What once interested, may no longer do so. How do you cope with the changes?
Keeping your older dog comfortable
Older dogs may need more rest. Somewhere quiet where they won¿t be disturbed in a soft, cosy bed away from draughts. They may need to go to the toilet more frequently. Incontinence or changes in how often they go to the toilet should be discussed with your vet.
Make sure everything your dog needs is easily accessible so they don’t have to go too far to find their water, food, toys and bed. Smooth, slippery floors can be difficult for older dogs to walk on, so put a rug or carpet down to give them something to grip.
Feeding a senior dog
As they get older a dog’s dietary requirements change. It varies with breed and size, but at around seven your dog might benefit from gradually moving onto a diet designed for senior dogs. A vet can advise what’s best.
Monitor how much your pet is eating and drinking – mention any changes in their eating habits or weight to your vet as there could be an underlying medical reason.
If you have other, younger dogs in the house, make sure your senior dog can access their food without having to compete.
Changing needs of older dogs
Although they may be slowing down, senior dogs still need regular exercise and mental stimulation – walking them little and often will help keep their weight down and toys and puzzle feeders can keep them entertained. Wearing a coat when out and about can help keep them warm and dry.
Gentle grooming can help you spend quality time with your dog which also gives you the chance to check for lumps and bumps, aches and pains.
If your dog seems stiff or has trouble with things like getting out of bed and going upstairs, your vet may advise some treatments that can help.
Health and welfare
Older dogs may have poor hearing and/or sight, so ask the family to avoid sudden loud noises so that they don’t get startled. If your dog appears to be ignoring you it could be because their hearing has deteriorated. Ask your vet to check them over.
Senior dogs may need their nails trimming more often if they’re exercising less. This is something your local vet can do for you.
If you have any concerns about your older dog, always check with a vet. Changes in behaviour may be signs of underlying issues, not just down to `old-age’ – so make sure to take them for a regular health check.