Care for Senior Dogs

Sep 26, 2018   Tracey Aston   Senior Pet Care

One of the unfortunate truths of being a pet parent is that our furry family members age at a much faster rate than we do.  Depending on the breed and size, your pet could be considered a senior as early as 7 years old! Your veterinarian can advise you on what age your pet is considered a senior.  As a senior, your pet will have different and changing needs than when they were younger.  Below you will find recommendations for adjusting to this new life phase with ease for both you and your beloved pet. 

As your pet ages, ailments can come on much faster and even be hidden. It's recommended that after a pet is considered senior age, you should be scheduling routine wellness appointments with your veterinarian every 6 months, instead of a year.  Veterinary medicine is making great strides in being able to treat and cure disease that were once considered incurable. However, as with us, an early detection can greatly increase the possibility of a favorable prognosis.  By having wellness checks every 6 months instead of a year, you greatly increase the chances of finding something early. 

It's always important to feed your pet a quality food but it's even more important for senior pets as they may be starting to slow down a little and won't be burning the calories they used to in their youth.  A healthy, quality diet will also ensure your pet is at a healthy weight. Overweight dogs have a higher incidence of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and the extra weight can be a serious determent to arthritic pets. 

Senior pets still require exercise! They may not bolt around the yard after their favorite ball like they used to but they will still enjoy a nice leisurely walk, stopping to allow them to smell engages their minds. Be willing to make adjustments to their exercise based on their abilities.  If a pool is available to you, swimming can be great exercise for senior or arthritic pets, as it provides cardiovascular benefits while the buoyancy supports sore joints. Swimming also helps with weight loss! 

Even as your pet slows physically, they will still require mental stimulation to keep them engaged and healthy.  If your pet is having mobility issues, try games that won't require a lot of movement, like hidden food puzzles or ‘finders keepers' games by hiding food in your hands or under cups.  Senior dogs still love to play as much as they always did. It's up to you and your pet's comfort to find ways to accommodate their changing bodies!

As with us, arthritis is very common for our pets, as well.  There are many supplements available to ease the discomfort of arthritis for your pets, such as glucosamine, fish oil, coconut oil, turmeric powder and chondroitin. Always check with your veterinarian before starting any supplements to make sure they aren't interfering with your pet's other medications. All medications have side effects, make sure you discuss these side effects and understand the dangers.  Be open to speaking to your vet about using non-prescription/holistic medications and supplements before using traditional medications. Trained health professionals, like Dr. Mike Savko, can provide relief to an arthritic pet through chiropractic, acupressure, acupuncture and canine massage.

Proper grooming is still a requirement to keep pets healthy and smelling good!  A senior pet may now have trouble stepping into a bath tub or be sore during brushings, due to arthritis, skin aliments or just plain sore muscles. If you're bathing your pet in a bathtub, make sure to have non-skid mats in the bathtub and on the floor for safe entering and exiting. Older pets will often need a softer brush and a gentle hand.  Brushing can also provide an opportunity to inspect your pet for any new bumps, lumps or lesions.  Proper nail length is still crucial for a dog's wellbeing, as their nail length affects their posture and could exasperate already sore joints.  Being most senior dogs aren't walking as much, their nails won't be ground down as much as they were.  Again, a gentle hand, steady hand is needed for sore feet joints. Some dogs will allow the use of a filing tool, such as grinder for shortening nails, while others will downright fight them. You know your pet and their comfort level best. 

Senior pets will often require daily medications for aliments or pain, and depending on your pet, this could be an interesting endeavor. In most cases, sticky food or pill pockets are your best bet! Placing the pill inside a small amount of peanut butter or a meatball seems to be a good pick, as they are thick enough to hide a pill in without easily spitting it out and both smell good to dogs!  **Never give over the counter medications to your pets without consulting your veterinarian! Some over the counter human medicines can cause deadly consequences in our pets! **

Your senior pets don't want to spend their lives in bed, and they still want to be with you! Thankfully, there are now numerous and varied assistive devices available to your senior pet if they are having mobility issues. Assistive devices, such as ramps, steps, orthopedic beds, slings and harnesses can help your pet maintain their lifestyle while still keeping them comfortable and safe. Always make sure to read the instructions carefully to avoid injury to yourself and/or your pet. 

You've been friends a good long time now, you know each other well, and have been through a lot together. Senior pets may require more help and accommodations than they did in their youth, but they are still the same, loving faithful companion they have always been! Your pet has always been there for you, it's now time to return the favor to your best friend. 

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