Senior Dog Care

After so many years of lending a paw, being all ears, or simply your best mate altogether, your ageing canine deserves the best doggone care you can give him. Beginning with some added TLC, to his kibbles – extra patience, and a whole lotta kindness.

After all, your good old boy is changing. He may need more time to sleep, wake up, finish his dinner or do his business. You’re sure to discover it roolly is the little things that can make life lots easier for your maturing mutt, from reaching his food for him, to providing plenty of warm, comfy places to sleep.

And if you add reading this article to the list, you’re bones ahead of the game. From exercise to diet to all the signs of ageing, we’ve got Old Yeller covered for dog years to come.

Exercise: No new tricks for the old dog, thanks.

You may be finding your Golden Retriever’s looking grrreat with his George Clooney greys, but just not retrieving the way he used to. This is droolly understandable, as a decline in activity is all a part of getting older. But it doesn’t mean you should let exercise off the collar, altogether. If your Boxer doesn’t use his muscles, he could lose mass and tone, making moving about even ruff-er. You’ll simply want to adjust the frequency and intensity of Spike’s downward dog, among other exercises.

Other pointers: Try replacing his old park run with shorter, more frequent walks, or a good dog-paddling session on a warm day. These can help keep your Sharpei in sharp shape, and his weight under control.

If your pooch is having a ruff time working out due to arthritis or plain old stiffness, here are some things you can do to make his movements more comfortable:

  • Get him a ramp to help get on and off furniture; up and down stairs; or into the car. This will reduce pressure on his joints, while allowing Old Yeller to do everyday activities, doggone it!
  • Protect his elbows and hips with well-padded bedding.
  • Elevate Spot’s food and water bowls to make eating and drinking easier, particularly if he has a stiff neck or back.
  • Get an RX for Rex – that is, the appropriate medications and food additives, if needed.
  • Give him a harness to wear, instead of a collar. A good one won’t put any pressure on his neck.

dog-dental-regular

Giving old Fido a lasting grin.

Over time, your dog’s teeth accumulate tartar – ruh-roh – if they aren’t cleaned regularly. An unfortunate state of affairs for that irresistible doggy grin, tartar buildup can cause gum disease, tooth deterioration, infection and tooth loss. As a result, your poor pooch may experience pain and difficulty eating. Worse yet, dental disease can spread to other organs of his body, making your pet seriously sick as a dog. Now, that bites.

But never fear, there are ways to protect your old Samoyed’s smile:

  • A nutritious diet
  • Dental chew treats
  • Regular teeth brushing at home
  • Yearly dental check-ups by a veterinarian

Now, you may have a lucky dog – some just end up with healthy teeth and smile big in the face of old age. Others, especially small breeds, need regular dental cleaning and check-ups to maintain their pearly bites. Rather than toying with your Toy’s health, proper care will walk him straight though to his senior years.

Worst case scenario: Sometimes the health of an older canine has gone to the dogs, preventing that regularly scheduled dental biscuit. Or perhaps he hasn’t had good preventative care throughout his life and is now stuck with tooth and gum infection. Both situations can really put a damper on your weiner-dog’s wellbeing. And on pet-lovers like you, now in the position of deciding whether to allow anaesthetic on your elderly dog, to remove the rotten teeth.

Always remember that decaying teeth can lead to kidney disease, heart disease and other health problems for your pooch. Not to mention a sore mouth, causing your poor Chow Chow to skip his chow. In the end, anaesthetic is less risky than leaving infected teeth – and will take the pain right out of your Pug. Talk to your vet about your older dog’s dental problems now, and avoid a litter of pain later.

Good old diet.

Your pooch may have a lot of dog years under his collar, but a good, healthy diet can give him even more. Or more specifically, heaps of energy; a glossy coat; a healthy weight and normal poo-poo (as in not bulky or runny).

So, what makes a nutritious meal for your mature Maltese? That would be a menu of all the top-dog nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. And the easiest way to get these wholesome ingredients into your Irish Wolfhound is to feed him a good-quality, commercial dog food, for his main course. These aren’t your garden-variety scooby snacks – they’ve actually been tested to ensure they meet the best-in-show nutrient requirements. How ’bout them apples?

It also roolly helps to check your dog food’s label to make certain:

  • the dog food is ‘complete and balanced for maintenance’.
  • the ingredients panel includes some type of animal protein as the first or main components, such as egg, chicken, chicken by-product meal, fish, lamb, poultry, poultry by-product, beef and meat meal. After all, dogs are carnivores and need the nutrients found in these animal protein sources. Woof.

Senior Foods (not to be confused with ‘Señor’ foods, as much as your ageing Chihuahua insists)

They’ll deny it ’til they’re grey in the face, but many dogs start to slow down and be less active, as they age. So, don’t be shy about swapping his usual dish for a food geared toward ‘senior’ or ‘mature’ dogs. These contain fewer calories and the correct balance of nutrients for your Golden Retriever’s golden years. Of course, if your dog is still playing hair-guitar and not packing on pounds from his regular food, there’s no need to teach an old dog new tricks.

No matter what you end up feeding your furry fossil, it’s a doggone good idea to use pet bowls that are easy for him to eat from – and for you to clean. Yip, yip!

Special Diets 

Being older and wiser doesn’t necessarily prevent your pooch from having health problems. But fortunately for Foo-foo, special diets exist to keep many illnesses on a short leash.

Special or prescription diets, available only by your vet’s recommendation, have been known to improve the wellbeings of older dogs with arthritis, skin disease, kidney failure and liver disease. By taking this pointer from your vet, you can lick some of Fido’s ruffest symptoms.

Wet or Dry Foods?

Wet and dry dog foods both have benefits your old boy can dig in to:

  • Premium dry foods are not only packed with high-quality ingredients your ageing dog will woof – they can also give your grinning greyhound a healthy set of canines (ting!). And when it comes to proper digestion, premium dry foods are as good as their value itself. So, you and your ripe old Rottweiler will do better avoiding cheapo brands that contain mostly cereals.
  • Wet foods (sachets/canned/dog rolls) add a bit of variety to your old dog’s diet, and are grrrreat for mixing in to premium dry food if your Keeshond isn’t too keen on it.

And let’s face it, some senior dogs can be a bit fussy about what they eat. So, including both wet and dry food on his daily menu is a paw-sitive move to help him eat well.

Table Scraps & Leftovers

Like most pet-lovers, you probably like to give Spot a little off your plate, from time to time. And that’s OK, as long as you follow the ’10 Percent Rule’: If the table scraps you’re feeding Fido are less than 10 percent of his total regimen, you don’t have to worry about a deficient diet, or adding extra nutrients. This is another great way to get your picky Pomeranian to eat well. And, she can save the table-side begging for more important things like ear-scratches and lawn bowls.

Note: You don’t want Smokey woofin’ down onions or garlic – both are toxic for dogs (and cats). So, definitely keep these bad boys out of your scraps.

Home Prepared Foods & Table Scraps

Your elderly English Setter has always been part of the family, so it’s only natural you’d want to give him a home-cooked meal. However, based on nutritional evidence, most vets would recommend saving your fish fingers for the fam and finding a premium dog food alternative. For example, if you’re worried about synthetic preservatives in store-bought, dog foods, try a dog food preserved in vitamin E. Or, perhaps you’re feeling sheepdogish about commercial dog foods – that they aren’t healthy enough? Simply buy a premium dog food that contains high-quality ingredients.

Now, if King Charles Spaniel has been graced with too much spaghetti bog over time, he may refuse dog food completely and be left with an unbalanced diet. The good news is, you can actually teach an old dog – and owner – new tricks. Ask your vet for the scoop on coaching your senior Spaniel to eat proper dog food.

And after all this, how much do we feed the old fart – er, French Bulldog?

So, we know that our ‘grey’ hounds can get fussy about food and lose weight, as a result. But of course the opposite can happen, too: Older dogs who do less downward dog can gain weight, which can worsen ripe old conditions like arthritis. How do we lick these problems? By keeping in mind that it’s the how much they eat that matters, not how often. So, go ahead and feed your age-old Akita once, twice, three tiiiiimes, a Labrador. Just make sure you’re following the guidelines on the food package for the weight of your pet, and adjusting the amount if you notice he’s losing or gaining kilos.

Weight – there’s more.

So, now that we’ve been fed the food run-down – how in dog’s name do we know if our over-the-hill companion is at a healthy weight?

  • Your dog should have a waist, or tuck-in at the ribs. (And if he’s got it, flaunt it!)
  • You should be able to feel his ribs through a thin layer of body covering.

Now, there’s a litter of evidence out there that says trim dogs are happier and have fewer health problems than overweight ones, as cute as porky Pugs may be. Just ask your vet to help you work out your older dog’s ideal weight.

And keep in mind there’s no ‘one-diet-fits-all’ for every ageing dog. Particularly if your pooch has health issues, it’s best to ask your vet about ideal meals for your old friend. Woof.

dog-sleeping-bed

How to spot an ageing dog.

Whether we have two legs or four, it’s only natural for ageing to start slowing us down a bit. For your senior Setter in particular, you’ll begin to notice the signs when he’s around seven years old. Some of them will be clear as a beagle. Others, like the ones happening inside Rover’s body, may not be so noticeable.

Let’s take a walk through the symptoms of your maturing mate, so you’ll know how to spot them.

On the outside, you’ll may notice the a bit of Mark Ruffalo, or handsome white hair around his muzzle. But of course with every grrreat thing in life comes tradeoffs. Your silver Foxhound will probably appear to have less energy or interest in his usual lap around the park. He may also look a little stiff when he’s getting up, or climbing the stairs. And if he’s hesitating to stand up after a good snooze, or having difficulty getting in to the car, you’ll know the good old days have just begun.

On the inside of Laddie’s body, his sense of sight, sound and smell will be winding down, much like his metabolism. And just like we tend to forget more as we grow older, your doggie may not always remember where his rubber Waldo is. With this litter of physical and mental changes, you may need to adjust your pet’s nutrition, as well. Just ask your vet for some pointers.

Doggie disease and getting on.

As pet-lovers, we never like to imagine our canine companion getting sick as a dog, as a result of growing older. But by catching the symptoms of an old-age disease early, you have a better chance of managing or even curing your golden-year Retriever’s illness.

So without further a-dog, here are some signs of old-age disease to watch for:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Loss or increase in appetite
  • Foul breath/dental disease
  • Lethargy
  • Drinking and/or urinating more than usual
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty passing stool or urine
  • Incontinence or toileting inside
  • Decrease in vision
  • Swollen belly
  • Excessive panting or exercise intolerance
  • Sudden collapse or weakness
  • Persistent coughing or gagging
  • Changes in behaviour

Now that you’re aware of what old-age disease in dogs may look like, it’s time to put on your brave, pet-lover face and learn about the illnesses that may be causing the symptoms above. Remember, the more you know, the better your chance of nipping Nabber’s disease in the bud.

Arthritis

This is a common ailment in older dogs, and often mistaken by well-meaning pet-lovers as simply, ‘old age’. In roo-ality, Arthritis is a debilitating and painful disease that can be pretty ruff on Rocky, fighting off much of his enjoyment in life. Symptoms include difficulty standing up, stiffness, slowed walking, irritability and a whole lotta time on his own.

You may also notice your Boxer’s muscles appear to be wasting away as his activity level lessens. But good news, there are many doggy food supplements and medications out there that can help dog Rufus’s pain and bring back the waggety days.

Cancer

No pet-lover likes to hear ‘cancer’, but it droolly can occur in older dogs. Signs include abnormal growths under the skin; swellings; poor appetite or increased drinking; and difficulty breathing, exercising or toileting.

Kidney disease

This is another common illness with our dear old friends. Symptoms include increased thirst, urination, vomiting and weight loss.

Liver disease

With this serious disease, our oldies-but-good-dogs experience lack of appetite, vomiting, sometimes noticeable jaundice (with yellowing gums and conjunctiva of the eyes), and general unwellness.

Cataracts

Common in our maturing mates, Cataracts involves the clouding of their eyes, with the loss of eyesight causing them to bump into things or stop fetching toys. However, many ageing dogs develop a greyness to their eyes from changes to the lens. This does not generally affect their sight, so that’s a pawsitive. Regardless, it’s important to get any eye changes checked by your vet, so a dogging diagnosis can be treated right away.

Sick or well, Snoopy will definitely need some special attention and TLC as he heads over the hill. With the rrrright care, you and your ageing Afghan Hound can still enjoy your time together, just like the good old days.

Be wiser with age: See a vet.

As ruff as it can be seeing your dog age out of his old self, there is a silver lining: Regular veterinary exams can help catch and treat any problems or illnesses before they can take over Turbo’s life. Routine vet visits also mean controlled controlled health care costs, since spotting a disease early is less costly than treating a dog in crisis. Bow-WOW.

So, what happens at an annual senior dog checkup?

First, your elderly English Foxhound will get a thorough examination. Doc will also sniff around for any changes in your dog’s behaviour (drinking more; chane in amount eaten; difficulty getting up, going up, stairs or walking) that may in-dog-cate a problem. Based on this, your vet may also recommend blood and urine tests to check for age-related problems. (See ‘How to spot an ageing dog’ and ‘Doggie disease and getting on’, above.)

If your vet digs up any issues, a treatment plan can be worked out to suit you and your ailing Airedale. And because healthcare needs often change as your best mate gets older, it’s roolly important to stay in touch with your vet, so you can adjust Piranha’s plan as necessary.

Regular check-ups and reviews of your ripe old dog’s health will give him a top-dog chance for a long, comfy life. Don’t forget, many age-old problems are treatable – even curable – with the right combination of veterinary and home care.

From all of us at Masterpet, may all the coming years for you and your Retriever be golden. Woof.