Caring for senior dogs can feel like a daunting task at times.
As your dog ages, they require a little more love and care. After years of exciting adventures, long walks and tons of snuggle sessions, it can be hard to accept that your spritely pup is now a senior dog.
Caring for your furry pal as they age requires patience, kindness, and knowledge about what’s best for their breed and health condition.
We understand how tough it can be watching your pal go grey, so here are some tips that hopefully can help educate you on common questions and topics about senior dogs.
Signs of an Aging Dog
Depending on the breed, your dog may or may not experience all of the most common “aging” symptoms. But just like humans, your best friend will show some signs as they grow older.
Here are some of the most common signs of old age in dogs.
As pups become senior dogs, they may start losing their hearing abilities.
You can test this by calling your dog from varying distances and see their responsiveness.
In most cases, there isn’t much you can do to change or repair their hearing. One thing you can do to prepare for it is to teach your dog hand signals for behaviors and training cues.
Then, when the time comes that they lose their hearing you can still communicate without words!
Is your dog having trouble noticing where their food or treats are located? They may be slower to acknowledge a favorite toy when it’s close by or a piece of food on the ground.
Just like in humans, sight loss is a common sign of aging in dogs.
Due to the lessening of their senses, older dogs are likely to develop nervousness and anxiety. They may begin to jump at loud noises or stare at objects for a long time.
After a loud noise, your pup may begin to walk around aimlessly, searching for the source.
Other dogs may exhibit signs of anxiety completely different. They can become aggressive or defensive or even completely aloof and hide somewhere where they find comfort and safety.
If you are observing any behaviors that are not common for your dog, it can be helpful to ask a vet for advice on how to help your dog with coping so they can find some relief from this anxiousness.
This article also provides a plethora of tips for various types of anxiety in senior dogs.
Getting Cold Easily
Just like humans, as dogs age they experience signs of a weakened immune system. This can cause them to get colder easier and catch illness more easily.
Keep your dog as warm as possible, avoid keeping them outside in cold weather for a long period of time.
Also, make sure they have a warm bed and blankets to cuddle with.
For most older dogs, the days of running after a feather on the sand or chasing a squirrel full speed are long over. You will find that your pal is moving more slowly on your walks or when reacting to stimuli.
This is a very common sign of old age and requires a lot of patience from dog parents.
Figure out what pace of activity works for your grey-faced pup and stick with it!
Be conscious of your dog’s weight as they grow older! As they age, their metabolism slows down and your dog is probably putting on weight much quicker than in the previous years.
Especially since they are much slower to move, weight gain can cause increased laziness and thyroid issues.
Work with your vet to figure out the best healthy food, treats and feeding times for your aging dog.
You may find as your dog gets older, he requires more attention. They may whine more often to get your attention if you are in another room.
Spend time with your dog giving them more head and back rubs, but also pay more attention to their teeth, gums, and skin.
Is My Senior Dog in Pain?
As they age and begin to slow down, you may worry about how they are feeling on a day to day basis.
If your dog is whimpering, whining and crying regularly – definitely go straight to a vet to see if they can identify any injuries or unseen problems.
Sometimes, signs of pain can be hard to spot.
Here are some common signs of pain in dogs:
- Odd behavior such as aggressiveness when they are approached.
- Heavy breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Rigid posture
- Frequent squinting and rubbing their face with their paws or on the floor
- Eating and drinking less
- Limited movement or limping, changes in peeing posture.
- Red eyes or inflammation on skin or eyeballs
Assisting Your Dog with Arthritis
Arthritis is very common in both dogs and cats as they begin to age. They can even begin experiencing arthritis at younger ages, similar to humans!
It can be caused by just general wear and tear of the joints. Limping, slower movement, stiffness, licking, and gnawing at legs and joints are all signs of arthritis in dogs.
What Can You Do to Help Your Dog With Their Arthritis?
Provide a well-padded bed and comfortable bedding for your dog to relax and sleep on (we can’t recommend the Big Barker beds enough).
Make sure their bed is in a warmer area of the home, far from damp drafts. Use padded steps or a soft ramp for your dog to get onto the couch or bed, if that’s where they love to sleep and hang out.
Around The House
If you have a lot of wood or tile flooring in area of your home that your dog spends time in, provide yoga mats and non-skid flooring to prevent falling and sliding.
Put a sloped ramp outside to help with stairs going out to the bathroom. M
A Little TLC
Massage your furry pal! Here’s some info from PetTao.com on massage techniques to use to help with arthritis.
Warm compresses can be placed on joints that are sore or tight.
Glucosamine, MSM, omega-3 fatty acids and many other supplements can be used to treat arthritis. Try out Pupford’s line of Joint Supplements, there is an option for younger dogs, preventative care, as well as more advanced and veterinary strength (perfect for senior dogs).
Know When to Say Goodbye to Your Senior Pal
Knowing when it’s time to say goodbye to your best pal will possibly be one of the hardest decisions of your life. There may come a time that your dog will no longer be able to live a full, comfortable life due to health issues and old age.
According to AKC.org, if you are noticing a severe decrease in appetite, the inability to walk or move around, lethargy, confusion, and trouble breathing, these may be signs that your dog’s life is, unfortunately, coming to an end.
Although this will be an extremely difficult and emotional time, it’s important for you to say goodbye to your best pal with love and grace. Reassuring them, treating them to all of their favorite activities and food (if they can handle it) and being as gentle as possible in their final days.
As much as you would want a simple, natural goodbye – sometimes there is a case to intervene. This is a very personal, private choice and it’s best to consult your vet as soon as you begin to see some of these signals.
Ask your vet questions about your options based on your pet’s specific situation, the financials of treatments that can help prolong their life and the reality of short term and long term care.
Your vet will help you make the right choices and guide you based on the circumstances but overall, it’s up to you as a pet parent.
Here is a helpful chart for getting a rough calculation on your senior dog’s quality of life.
Recap of Caring for Senior Dogs
When your dog starts getting old and grey, it can be a very tough experience.
The important thing to remember is to try and remember to give your pup as comfortable of a senior life as you can.
Try extra walks (even if they are short and sometimes slow), plenty of love & treats, and of course, the love they need!
If your senior pup is experiencing joint pain, be sure to check out our Level 4 joint supplements.