Old dog

While it may be sad to watch, it is inevitable that your dog is going to grow old.

Ageing affects each dog in different ways. Some may remain quite energetic and playful, while others may simply want to spend the majority of their time in a comfortable bed. Physical changes will occur too, from greying muzzles to a loss of hair to a change in eye colour, all of which are signs your dog is getting old.

There is no denying that it can sometimes be tough to care for a senior pooch, but once you are armed with the right information, you will be able to give your aging dog the very best quality of life possible.

This guide to caring for older dogs will teach you all you need to know…

Be Aware of Joint Pain

Studies show that around 80% of dogs that are over the age of eight suffer from some type of joint pain, and the majority of these dogs will actually try to hide their symptoms from their owners.

Why?

It all comes down to instinct…

In order to survive in the wild, dogs would have to hide any signs of pain or discomfort, otherwise they would end up getting left behind by the rest of their pack.

So, how do you know if your pooch is suffering from joint pain?

Here are a few symptoms to watch out for:

  • Difficulty in standing
  • Occasional limping
  • A reduction in energy
  • An increase in irritability
  • Excessive licking or biting around a joint
  • Weight gain and obesity

How can you help to ease the pain that your pooch is feeling?

There are several steps that you can take, such as:

  • Regular exercise – low impact exercises are best, with swimming being one of the most beneficial options
  • Comfortable bedding – make sure your dog’s bedding features enough padding to keep their joints comfy
  • Maintaining a healthy weight – if your dog is overweight, dietary changes are vital Joint supplements – there are many ingredients out there that can help, from MSM, Glucosamine, Devil’s Claw, Turmeric Paste and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Be Understanding of Behavioural Changes

Older black dog

Cognitive decline is a common side effect of ageing, and this can affect your dog in several different ways.

Some dogs may start to experience separation anxiety whenever they are left alone. To deal with this, go back to basics and make use of desensitization training techniques.

Doggie Alzheimer’s is another issue that is becoming more and more prevalent. While this is still being researched, studies so far confirm that dogs can go through Alzheimer’s in a similar way to humans.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this. While there are some medications that can help to relieve the symptoms, your patience and understanding are crucial in helping your dog navigate through this difficult time. A regular routine is so important, as this will prevent your dog from becoming confused through the day.
Dietary supplements can help, such as adding in some melatonin and omega-3 fatty acids.

Nutritional Changes Are Important

Your dog’s nutritional requirements will change with age.

Now, this is a controversial topic, but older dogs generally require:

  • Less Protein
  • Less Calories
  • Higher Fibre

You can educate yourself a little more with Dr. Karen Becker’s article on feeding your senior dog. And be sure to consult a holistic vet if you require more information.

If you want to extend your dog’s life as much as possible, a high quality diet (fresh is best), that has been tailored for a senior dog, is the way to go.

Be Aware of Changes in Sensory Perception

German Shepherd

Just like with humans, older dogs experience everything from a loss of hearing to a loss of sight.

These problems will soon become apparent to you…

You will likely notice your dog not responding in the same way when their name is called, or becoming startled when you suddenly appear behind them.

These changes can make the world a scarier place for your pooch, so it is important that you make them feel as comfortable and secure as possible.

If you notice your dog’s hearing is starting to fade, teaching your pooch some sign language can really help as this becomes worse, especially for things like recall.
In terms of eyesight, try to keep everything around the house in the same place. If you do decide to rearrange, make sure that you show your pooch where everything is as soon as you are done.

Dental Care is Very Important

German Shepherd in Field

It goes without saying that regular vet visits are vital for a senior dog, but many owners tend to neglect the dental side of things.

Dental disease can be a huge problem, causing so much pain for an older dog. It can also lead to a number of other health problems, from weight loss to kidney disease to heart disease.

How can you care for your dog’s teeth?

The same way you care for yours – by brushing them regularly. For a dog, raw meaty bones that are not weight bearing are the perfect way to control plaque build up. Dental toys (such as a Kong) and treats (e.g. Kangaroo or beef tendons) can also help, but make sure that these are high quality treats, with zero preservatives or flavours. Commercial dental dog treats tend to be packed with sugars and other poor ingredients, and these can actually make the teeth even worse.

If you are interested in learning more, check out this article on dental health for Senior dogs.

It can be difficult to watch your faithful companion struggle through life due to ageing issues, but there are so many ways in which you can make your pooch’s life easier and more enjoyable.

As your dog progresses through life, make sure that you are paying close attention to all of the signs your dog is getting old, so that you can deal with any problems as early on as possible.


Has ageing affected your dog in any of these ways? Feel free to share any tips in the comments section below.

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