Once a dog reaches old age, he will have a different set of needs
The game of fetch that you used to play together may now be too strenuous for your pet. As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to help your pooch go through new physical challenges as smoothly as possible.
How do you know if your pet is already a senior dog?
Like humans, dogs age at different rates especially when it comes to breed and size.
For instance, giant breeds like Great Danes become senior at five to six years of age while smaller breeds like the Chihuahua enter senior age between ten and 11 years.
Keep in mind the following signs and health issues linked to aging to ensure your dog gets the most out of his senior years:
- Increased or strained urination
- Vision loss and other eye problems
- Bad breath, bleeding gums and other dental problems
- Bumps, lumps and other skin problems
- Losing or gaining weight
- Difficulty moving around
- Behavioral and memory problems
As your beloved pet reaches senior age, do all you can to keep him fit and active to enjoy his remaining years. Here’s what you can do to ensure that your dog is happy and healthy all throughout his doggy days.
1. Maintain a healthy diet
Make sure that your dog only eats quality dog food.
Seek your veterinarian’s advice on the appropriate diet for your dog’s lifestyle and age.
Keep in mind that an overweight dog is at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, skin disease, and even cancer. An overweight dog is a special case as he must be carefully fed to ensure he gets all the nutrients he needs while still allowing for weight loss.
2. Schedule regular vet visits
It’s much easier to prevent dog disease than to treat one. Your senior dog should undergo semi-annual wellness exams as many diseases are usually not obvious or apparent.
During every visit, the veterinarian will conduct a full exam to check your dog’s heart function, concerning lumps the vet finds, eyesight and hearing.
Ask for an evaluation of your dog’s body condition to figure out whether your senior dog is underweight, overweight, or at an ideal body weight. You can ask your veterinarian to teach you how to evaluate your canine’s body condition at home as well. This way, you can keep a close watch on your dog’s weight especially in case there are fluctuations.
3. Ensure daily exercise
Even a senior dog still needs daily exercise to maintain an ideal weight and good health.
Below are three types of strengthening exercises that can help your dog’s aging body:
- Spatial orientation and movement exercises – These help older dogs remain flexible while encouraging physical stability and improved balance.
- Passive range-of-motion (PROM) exercises – These benefit both incapacitated and physically healthy dogs.
- Targeted strengthening exercises – These are perfect for working out big muscle groups which are responsible for walking, standing, and running.
Don’t overdo exercise, though.
If you and your dog used to go for long runs, a leisurely walk may be more appropriate for his current speed and stamina.
Keeping your senior dog fit as he ages is vital, but you must be gentle with the exercises you give him. Gentle stretching is a simple exercise your pooch can do that will improve his well-being without necessarily straining him.
4. Allow for socialization and mental stimulation
Despite his age, your dog still needs regular interaction with other people and animals. If your four-legged friend doesn’t get involved with life, his existence can become a sad, lonely and scary place.
Your senior dog needs regular exposure to reduce his mental confusion and deterioration of cognitive functions that often come with old age. Stick to a daily routine to help reduce mental uncertainty and anxiety.
Love your aging pooch
Besides regular exercise and a healthy diet, the best you can give your senior dog is lots of love. Provide special accommodations such as a comfy pet bed and blankets to help him sleep better.
The simple things you do and the special time you spend together with your pooch are what he will treasure most and really needs.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz