Caring for senior dogs
Senior pets are truly special – they are gentle and wise – and just like with humans, senior years for our pets should be relaxed and enjoyable. My own dog, Riley is now a senior and while it breaks my heart to watch him slow down, I know a few thoughtful adjustments to his routine can potentially improve his quality of life and help him stay comfortable.
When is your dog a Senior?
Dogs are living longer than ever, thanks to improved nutrition and medical care. Dogs are generally considered to be seniors from around 8 years of age however larger and giant breeds of dogs are considered seniors at a younger age, generally from 5 to 7 years.
Once your pet is senior, it is recommended you take them to the vet for a thorough check-up twice a year. Pets can suffer from many of the ailments that affect humans such as cancer, diabetes, dental disease, kidney failure, and loss of vision. Many of these conditions can be managed if detected early.
Good nutrition becomes even more important for your dog as they age. Seniors need a balanced diet that is lower in calories, protein and fat but higher in fibre. Be sure to discuss your aging pet’s dietary needs with your veterinarian.
Being overweight predisposes pets to heart disease and diabetes and also places unnecessary strain on hips and joints. Unfortunately, many older dogs gain weight due to a reduced amount of exercise. It’s important for dogs to remain active and undertake regular short and gentle walks, in keeping with their health and ability.
Weight loss can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition so it’s a good idea to regularly record their weight and discuss with your vet if you see changes.
Changes in Behaviour
Pets go through changes and slow down as they age but these changes can also be symptoms of underlying medical issues. Watch for signs like difficulty getting up, climbing stairs, or getting into the car as these can be signs of pain caused by arthritis.
As your dog ages, their sense of sight and hearing may become impaired. They may no longer react to sounds like they used to or they may be difficult to wake up. They may not recognise you as well from a distance as they used to.
Some pets suffer from dementia-like illnesses as they age. If your pet appears confused, disorientated, forgets basics like toilet training, starts to bark or howl or becomes aggressive or displays any of the signs mentioned above, thorough vet check-up is recommended.
The cooler months can be tough on seniors but it is important that your dog still goes outside for daily exercise, even though it is chilly. They need it to keep their muscles and joints moving and it helps manage their weight. Feed smaller meals instead of one large one as smaller meals are easier to digest and will deliver energy throughout the day.
Those with short coats or low body fat will definitely benefit from a jacket to help keep them warm – choose something that is practical over fashionable.
Older pets need to be kept warm especially in winter, so make sure they have a cosy but supportive bed that is somewhere dry and away from draughts. Placing a pet-safe heat pad under the covers can help add some extra warmth too.
The Snooza Snuggler offers orthopaedic support with an orthopaedic foam mattress providing a stable base to help ease the pain of stiff joints while the soft bolstered side walls provide soft walls to lean against or to rest their heads.
If your dog has mobility problems, it is recommended to give them a bed with low sides so that it is easy for them to get in and out. The Snooza Ortho Dream Sofa has an orthopaedic support foam base providing the supportive base for older dogs, while the soft filled bolstered walls add protection and comfort – Riley loves to rest his head on these bolsters. The wide-open front provides easy access for pets allowing them to get on and off with ease.
It is difficult to watch our beloved pets age but providing them with some extra comfort and care can help them enjoy their golden years the way they deserve to.