Caring for Your Senior Dog
Each passing year can bring health challenges for your aging dog. Caring for a senior dog requires a little more work, but you can take steps to ensure that your dog’s quality of life doesn’t change as they grow older.
Large or giant breed dogs age at an accelerated rate. Large breeds tend to have a life span of 5-8 years, whereas a small breed can expect to live 10-14 years. For example, a Saint Bernard would be considered a senior at 5 years old, but a Toy Poodle would only be approaching middle age. Nutrition, environment, and genetics all play a role in how fast your dog ages, too.
Caring for Common Senior Ailments
Arthritis is the most common ailment in older dogs, and large breeds are especially susceptible. You might find that your dog no longer runs up the stairs or doesn’t like to take long walks like he used to. Arthritis tends to be worse in overweight pets. As your dog grows less active, his caloric needs will drop and you could end up overfeeding him. Keeping your dog on a regular exercise schedule will ease pressure on sore joints and keep excess pounds off.
Sleeping on the floor or other hard surfaces can be painful for an arthritic dog. Your senior dog needs a comfortable, supportive bed to alleviate pressure points and help cushion joints, like the QuietTime Defender Orthopedic Nesting Bed. This therapeutic bed has also Teflon® Fabric Protector built into the fabric, so accidental messes due to incontinence can be wiped away.
If your typically housetrained dog starts leaking in the house, he likely can’t help it. Urinary incontinence in senior dogs is the result of hormonal imbalances and weakening bladder muscles. Your vet may suggest hormonal supplementations to treat the imbalance. To manage incontinence in your house, you could outfit your pup in a doggy diaper, or place puppy training pads around the house where he is prone to leaking.
Hearing and Vision Loss
Aging dogs also typically deal with hearing and vision issues. If you suspect hearing loss, trying shaking a bag of his favorite treats in another room and see if he responds. If your dog has age-related hearing loss, teach him to communicate with you through hand signals and eye contact. Be careful not to sneak up behind him as he will startle easily now.
Senior dogs often develop cataracts, which you can spot by a distinctive cloudy, blush-grey tint over your dog’s eyes. Cataracts cause blurring and vision distortion, and are often accompanied by other illnesses, such as diabetes. As your dog’s vision fades, avoid rearranging furniture which will confuse and disorient him. Try placing a distinctive scent, like lavender oil, by his food bowl or the door so he can smell his way around.
Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian to stay on top of any emerging illnesses. Your dog should be examined at least once a year, even if he seems to be in good health. Many diseases don’t present obvious symptoms until it’s too late to treat. Giving your senior dog a happy and healthy quality of life as they age is the best gift you can give them.