Every dog deserves good health and happiness at every stage of life. The best way to keep your senior dog healthy is to consult a veterinarian regarding your dog’s diet, exercise, and medical issues. Take your dog to the clinic for wellness exams and to get shots on the schedule recommended by your veterinarian. Additionally, keep a close eye out for any changes in your dog’s appearance, behavior, or personality. Unusual changes may be a sign of a medical issue that requires intervention.
Understanding Canine Aging
The rate at which dogs grow older is different from breed to breed. In general, large dogs age faster than small dogs. If you have a Great Dane, your dog will be considered a senior at about five or six years of age. If you have a Chihuahua, she wouldn’t be a senior until about 10 or 11 years of age. Other factors apply too, such as the dog’s genetics, nutrition, and environment.
Dealing with Dental Disease
Dental disease is a major health problem for any dog. Senior dogs may be more susceptible because there has been more time for cavities and gum disease to become advanced. Dental disease can cause pain for your dog. It can also lead to malnutrition, weight loss, tooth loss, and a rough appearance of the coat. With good preventive care, however, you can help your dog keep all of his teeth—and his overall health. Protect your dog’s teeth and gums with the following steps:
- Brush your dog’s teeth every day.
- Only use canine toothpaste—never human toothpaste.
- Schedule a canine dental checkup every six to 12 months.
- Schedule a professional dental cleaning as often as the vet recommends.
Feeding a High-Quality Senior Diet
During your dog’s next wellness exam, ask the vet to do a body conditioning evaluation. The vet will determine whether your dog is underweight, overweight, or at an ideal weight. Based on the vet’s findings, he or she may recommend adjustments to your dog’s diet. It’s important for senior dogs to consume a nutritious diet. Some senior dogs need to consume fewer calories and less fat as they grow older and become less active. Your vet may also recommend adding some natural, whole foods to your dog’s diet, such as berries and leafy greens. These provide the antioxidants your dog needs for a strong immune system. Always double-check that a “human” food is safe for dogs before giving it to your pup.
Soothing Achy Joints
Just like humans, dogs can get stiff, achy joints as they grow older. It’s time for a vet visit if you notice any of the possible signs of arthritis in your dog. These can include:
- Slow gait.
- Difficulty rising after lying down.
Depending on the progression of the arthritis and the symptoms your dog is exhibiting, the veterinarian might prescribe a canine arthritis medication. Always follow the dosage instructions carefully, and call the vet right away if you notice any adverse reactions. A more natural strategy is to fortify your dog’s diet with joint-friendly supplements. Consider asking your vet about glucosamine and chondroitin. Fatty acids like DHA and EPA are also healthy for your dog’s joints.
Encouraging Your Senior Dog to Stay Active
Dogs naturally love to run and play, but they tend to slow down as they grow older. If you’re worried that your dog isn’t getting enough activity, check with your veterinarian before changing your dog’s exercise routine. Any medical issues, such as arthritis, will need to be addressed first. Then, gradually lengthen the distance of your dog’s daily walks. Change the walking route too, which will help your dog stay interested in exercising. Your dog may also enjoy:
- Visiting dog parks.
- Playing with new, mentally stimulating toys.
- Working away at food puzzles.
- Learning new tricks.
Senior dogs are lovable friends who deserve the best of care. Use these strategies to help your dog enjoy a happy, full life, and always talk to your veterinarian if you notice any health issues.