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Caring for a Senior Dog

2019 sees the start of our family dog Shankly's 10th year and over Christmas we saw subtle changes in him. This got me thinking …..… when is old age for a dog? What changes do we need to make? What can we expect and how can we keep him happy and comfortable?

Lots of research later I've compiled my top five tips. Most of it is common sense but have a read you never know it might include something you've not thought of...

1. Most dogs are classed as senior when they reach 7 but this depends on breed, lifestyle and genetics. The larger the breed the sooner they reach their twightlight years and smaller dogs live longer - fact. You'll know when its time to take more care. Your dog will slow down. Need more sleep, walk at a slower pace, might even start not wanting to go out, especially in winter or cold wet days. Watch out for the subtle signs, don't force him to go out if he doesn't want to. Consider purchasing a coat to keep them warm. As your dog becomes less active he is prone to feel the cold. You also need to remember that some dogs won't self preserve so they need us to protect them and keep them safe. For example restricting how often they chase balls, stopping them from jumping too much etc. You know your dog best, if you see them having difficult walking after a long walk, then it's time to restrict how long they walk for. Regular exercise is important to keep your dog mobile and reduce the chance of stiffness and loss of muscle mass. So if your dog is not wanting to go out at all consult your vet to rule out pain.

2. If he has slowed down make sure you adjust his food accordingly. Older dogs are prone to weight gain, because they are less active and because their metabolic rate slows. Re-evaluate their food to match their new lifestyle. As your dog ages their senses can slowly deteriorate and their regular food might become unappealing as it lacks appetising smell and flavour, so some dogs might in fact loose weight. If your dog has lost his appetite but is eating ok, check his mouth for signs of tooth decay and gum disease.

3. You might want to consider providing extra comfort in their favourite bed, maybe an extra mattress (orthodpedic) and if your dog likes to bury himself maybe extra blankets. Older dogs can become less tolerant of a busy household and crave peace and quiet. Consider an additional bed somewhere quiet where he can retire to, ensuring the family knows not to disturb him.

4. Your dogs coat needs special care as it changes with age and grooming should be done more frequently. Its a good opportunity to check for any lumps and any spots where your dog might show signs of pain. Hearing and eyesight may deteriorate gradually and changes include not responding to your voice or becoming startled at sudden noise. Whilst it can be part of the normal ageing process you will need to monitor and seek veterinary care to check for diseases that left untreated could eventually cause total blindness as the majority can be prevented

5. There are many aids on the market that will help your dog as he enters his old age and no matter what his issue I'm pretty certain someone has thought of a solution for it. Car travel for large dogs is no problem as you can buy steps, ramps or carelift harnesses that attach to the hind and forequarters so you can lift and support your dog. Once in the car there is seat belt clips to keep your dog from falling. Older dogs might not have the mobility to balance themselves if the driver brakes suddenly. Larger dogs may also benefit from raised feeding and water bowls. The market is awash with supplements but remember what works for one dog might not necessarily aid another. Your vet will be able to offer the best advice on what supplements might benefit your dog factoring diet, lifestyle and age.

No matter how you dog copes with aging there is one thing that is universal. He now needs your patience understanding and as much love as you can give him.


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