Just like us humans all dogs age, at varying rates and with differing health implications. Maintaining the health and welfare of an older dog can present different challenges to those of caring for its younger counterpart. Below are five tips to help keep your pet healthy and maintain its quality of life through the ageing process.
Unfortunately, unlike us, our dogs can’t verbalise how they feel. They can’t moan and groan about a tummy ache or complain about back or leg stiffness. But they can ‘tell’ us through their behaviour. Some people intuitively know their pets as well (if not better!) as they know their own family members, as they have learned to observe their pets over years of fun and caring.
This intuition is a very important element in the owner-pet relationship, and can become crucial as our dogs moves into the senior phase. Changes in behavior, such as loss of appetite or water consumption, can sometimes be symptoms of disease or illness. Other telltale signs to look out for are changes in urinary or bowel habits, irritability for no reason, irregular sleeping routines, hearing or sight difficulties, and general movement deficiency. Any changes in your pet’s behaviors that are causing you concern should prompt a visit to your local vet for a consultation.
Make sure you bring your elderly pet to the vet for regular check-ups. A common rule of thumb for senior pets is to be examined every six months, but more regularly if your pet has significant health issues. Your vet, by means of a thorough physical examination, can determine any serious health issues in your pet such as arthritis, heart disease, dental disease, kidney disease or a deficiency in their immune system.
It sounds obvious, but it is important to consider how easy it is for your dog to get around. Senior dogs suffering from arthritis will benefit from ramps or steps to allow them access to furniture or bedding. Carpeting on slippery floors can help them get their footing. Also consider if your dog requires help getting in or out of your car.
As your dog ages, his dietary requirements can change. Older pets can tend to gain weight that can aggravate their health problems. Equally, some may tend to lose weight and require more calories. It is important to consider your pet’s calorie intake and pet foods with incorporated supplements can lead to weight gain. Alternatively, standalone supplements can be added directly to feeds regardless of portion size, allowing your pet their supplementary requirements without unnecessary calorie intake. Also consider the palatability of feed or supplements as they are only of benefit if your pet will take them orally. Once again your vet can advise on the best solution for your pet’s dietary requirements.
Ensure your pets bedding is warm, dry and comfortable -not too hard or too soft for ageing joints, but just right to support their older bodies. Resting easier and sleeping better will help your dog cope better with the aging process.
Prevention is better than cure
It’s an old adage, but a good one: Prevention is better than cure. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your pet with regular exercise, mental stimulation and a healthy diet, you can prolong and enhance its quality of life. Our pets give us unconditional loyalty and support, and with a little effort from us we can help maintain their quality of life, and make that life a little longer. A healthy dog is a happy dog.