There are countless articles and books on puppy care, but considerably less advice is available about caring for senior dogs. Senior dogs are wonderful, special beings and they have earned their right to enjoy a comfortable life, yet sadly many senior dogs are left to fend for themselves when they outgrow their cuteness. Older dogs comprise a considerable part of animals shelters because many people simply do not want to adopt senior dogs. Even those of us who lovingly vow to care for our dogs from puppyhood to old age often miss the signs (or unintentionally refuse to believe) that our precious pups are reaching their golden years.
First Things FirstI still call my black lab, Django, “puppy”. Even though she will be turning 4 this fall, I still recall adopting her like it was yesterday and while she is nowhere near a senior, she is far from a puppy. It is difficult for many owners to think of their pups as getting older but the more we prepare ourselves for our dog’s senior years, the more we can provide them better health and comfort.
Is your dog a senior or close to being one? On average, small dogs become seniors when they are about 7, but unfortunately, larger dogs age earlier. A big dog is usually considered old when they turn 6. Check out this chart from the American Veterinary Medical Association and see where your pup falls.
What’s Up, Doc?
If your dog is approaching seniorhood, the best thing you can do for them is keep up with their regular vet appointments. Common diseases that affect geriatric dogs are cancer, joint disease, heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. Check out what ailments typically affect your dog’s particular breed and discuss these with your vet.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Older dogs still need their vaccinations, perhaps even more so. They may be declining in their friskiness, but parasites can still attack them. When worms, fleas, and ticks infest an older dog with a weakened immune system, the chances for complication rise.
Consider what things your dog might no longer enjoy. While walks are usually always welcomed, perhaps a two-mile run is no longer good for a dog with ailing hind legs or a bad back. Again, discuss with your vet.
Like people, senior dogs may not be able to tolerate the type of food or the amount that they used to eat. They also tend to gain weight more easily, which can affect already compromised joints. There are several dog foods on the market that your vet can discuss with you.
Just like humans, our dogs can become mentally sluggish, and they can use the equivalent of a doggie crossword puzzle a day to keep that brain active. Talk to them, continue to ask them to perform tricks or give their paw and use the brain stimulating treat toys if they enjoy them.
Image: © 2013 Garry Gross