As a responsible dog owner, you need to ensure your aging pet receives special care. In addition to feeding your dog a specialized senior canine diet, you may need to make a few lifestyle changes or adjustments. For starters, be sure your older pet receives routine vet checkups to ensure good health and rule out disease. In addition, here are a few more measures to take during your dog's golden years.
1. Keep Your Dog Fit and Trim
Veterinarians frequently treat overweight dogs who are approaching their senior years. The reason is often because older dogs tend to slow down, and many dogs do not receive adequate daily exercise. To keep your canine companion healthy, do not encourage your dog to lounge around and do little but eat and sleep all day.
Keep your senior dog active as much as possible but within limits. Take your dog on daily walks around the neighborhood, play a simple game of fetch in the yard or at the dog park, or rotate new toys periodically to keep your dog's interest and activity levels up.
Diet plays a key role in the elderly dog's health too. Ask the vet for recommendations on the daily calorie content your pet should consume.
The American Kennel Club recommends that pet owners cut approximately 20 percent of the daily calorie consumption from what your dog consumed before. If your dog is overweight, that percentage may differ. Consult with the vet on special needs, including extra protein for loss of muscle mass.
2. Offer a Comfortable Bed to Ease Aging Joints
Many pets experience stiff or arthritic joints as they age. If your dog seems to have difficulty climbing, moving, or walking, have the vet check for arthritis. In any case, provide your dog with a comfortable place to rest and sleep. A soft yet supportive pet bed will be easier on your dog's joints and make him or her more comfortable.
Check out the orthopedic dog beds at your favorite pet store. Some of the luxury beds are constructed of memory foam or egg crate foam that offer support and cushioning for achy joints. Whatever style you choose, be sure it will be the appropriate fit for your dog's breed and size.
3. Be Aware of Possible Cognitive Decline
As a dog ages, behavioral issues or cognitive decline may develop. Just as many humans develop memory loss and confusion with age, pets may exhibit much of the same symptoms. Some senior dogs may appear disoriented, especially in new surroundings or when moving to a new home. Other dogs may not respond to commands as proficiently as they did in earlier years.
Remember, these behaviors are probably a natural part of the aging process. If your pet doesn't respond to commands or seems confused, consult with the veterinarian. The vet may check for hearing loss or vision problems.
Also, if your senior dog has become restless, anxious, or develops sleep changes, the vet may prescribe medication. For more complex behavioral issues, you might want to consult with a dog behavioral specialist who may need to retrain or desensitize your pet.
As a general rule, bring your senior dog to the Family Pet Clinic for a semi-annual checkup and wellness exam. A geriatric exam may consist of a urinalysis, blood count and stool test. If your dog has any medical issues, x-rays or an electrocardiogram may be necessary. Keep your dog's medical records and list of medications handy, so you may relay this information to your veterinarian and help keep your dog in good health for as long as possible.