You might have spotted a few grey hairs here and there, and you might have noticed that your dog has started to move a little slower than usual.
This is completely normal. It just means that your dog is getting older!
Most dogs reach middle age at about the age of seven, but some breeds might start to show the signs of ageing a tad earlier.
Smaller dogs with longer life expectancies may achieve seniority later, at the age of eight or nine.
Senior dogs still make for fantastic companions, but you do need to take a few things into consideration when caring for your ageing friend.
What happens to Dogs as they age?
The main thing is to keep an eye on your dog’s weight.
Senior dogs move slower, which means that they use up less energy. It’s all too easy for the pounds to pile on.
Obesity is a hazard for dogs of all ages, but it’s particularly harmful for senior dogs – largely because once the weight’s put on, it’s very hard to lose.
As we’ll explain in more detail below, you should talk to your vet about developing an exercise plan and a diet that takes your dog’s changing needs into consideration.
But you should be equally as wary of your dog losing too much weight. Sudden and dramatic weight loss can be caused by digestion problems and other illnesses. Their mouths may be too dry, or they may be finding it difficult to swallow.
In any case, if you notice that your dog is losing weight, tell your vet immediately.
Caring for Senior Dogs
Your dog’s senior years could potentially be the most rewarding for both of you. You’re both older, wiser, and more content.
This can result in the sort of deep bond that’s only really possible with dogs – a lifelong friendship built on trust, loyalty, and love.
How long do dogs live? It depends on many factors, including their breed, their diet, their lifestyle, the amount of exercise they get, and their medical history.
But in any case, from the moment your dog reaches full maturity, you’ll have to start making some changes if you want them to enjoy their autumn years in peace.
Make them comfortable
Senior dogs need their home comforts. Give them a lovely soft bed of their own, a place where they can get some well-earned rest for their aching joints at the end of a long day.
Put their bed somewhere warm and quiet – ideally next to a radiator, away from any draughts.
Make things as easy as possible. Place a bowl of clean water near their bed to save them from having to make taxing journeys up and downstairs when they need a drink.
Give Them Exercise, but Take It Easy
Senior dogs can develop arthritic joints, which will obviously make them less agile. So if you’re taking them on a trip, they will likely find it difficult to jump into your car. Be prepared to give them a hand. If your dog’s too large to lift, get a ramp to help them climb in with ease.
This gentle approach should extend to all physical activity. Regular exercise is as important as ever, because obesity is a particularly serious issue for senior dogs.
Talk to your vet about exercising your senior dog. They’ll be aware of your dog’s entire medical history, so they’ll be able to recommend an exercise routine that takes into consideration any underlying issues.
Your vet will also be able to advise you on the correct diet for your mature dog.
Feeding Your Senior Dog
As your dog gets older, their dietary needs will change.
Read our guide for more information.
A Regular Routine with the Odd Bit of Novelty
The older dogs get, the more they come to depend on a consistent daily routine.
Make sure you do everything – feeding, walking, rising, and sleeping – at vaguely the same time every day. Any sudden and unexpected changes to routine may seriously compromise your dog’s emotional wellbeing.
But that said, a bit of novelty now and then can help an old dog to feel young again. A new toy can offer a welcome bit of mental stimulation. And contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
No Sudden Surprises
You should also avoid making any sudden loud noises while they’re asleep – especially if you suspect that their hearing isn’t what it used to be.
On a similar note, if you think your dog’s eyesight is getting worse, always approach them slowly and quietly to avoid any nasty shocks.
Make sure everyone in the house, and everyone who visits your house, is aware of the need for gentleness.
Emotional Support for Senior Dogs
It will take a bit of time for your dog to get used to their physical and mental changes. It’s up to you to guide them through these changes. Be as kind, loving, and patient as you’ve always been, and your dog will continue to love you right back.
With this gentle approach, combined with a number of changes to your daily routine and some high quality veterinary care, you can look forward to many quiet and rewarding years with your senior dog.
For more information about caring for your senior dog, feel free to get in touch. Call us on 01604 648221.