Best Ways to Care for Your Aging Dog
Caring for Your Aging Dog
In many ways, dogs are just like people. We care for them as we would any family member, supporting their changing health needs as they age. Like people, every dog is different, with a distinct personality, temperament, and favorite activities.
The steps you take to keep them well into their later years also depends on their size, breed and existing health concerns. But despite those differences, there are some general things to keep in mind as your loved one grows older.
Is Your Dog a Senior?
Most large-breed dogs age more quickly than small breeds. On average, small-breed dogs are seniors at about age 7, while large breeds reach that milestone at about 5 to 6 years of age. A small or medium-sized dog weighing under 50 lbs. at adulthood is approximately 44 to 47 human years old by the time he's seven. A large dog over 50 lbs. is about 50-56. Since canines age faster than people, your 10-year-old pooch may be about 56-60 or 66-78 in human years.
Of course, these numbers are just estimates to give you an idea of the general phase of your loved one's aging. The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that dogs of all breeds can remain healthy and active well into later life, with good care from their guardians.
What to Expect as Your Dog Ages
Because canines age more quickly than people, the senior years can sneak up on guardians. It may seem like all of a sudden their companion is moving more slowly or doesn't seem to see or hear as well as he once did.
As he gets older, your dog is experiencing changes on both the inside and outside. As his joints and hips don't work as well and his coat becomes more grey, his organs are also declining and immune system is less effective. While it's always important to keep up with veterinary visits to monitor your dog's health to rule out chronic illnesses or ailments, here are some common signs of old age:
How to Support Your Older Dog
As a guardian, there are many steps you can take to keep your dog happy and content as his needs evolve and change. Because it may be challenging for him to get up and down stairs, you may want to create a space for him to sleep that does not put pressure on his joints. You may want to put in a ramp, raise feeding bowls to make it easier for your dog to eat, or buy an orthopedic bed.
Your dog may become more of a indoor canine, with fewer sprints or vigorous ball-chasing sessions. Exercise is still vitally important in order to maintain mobility. Daily walks, taken at a slower pace than in the past, help your canine to stay active. If your pooch seems sore to the touch or has great difficulty moving, he may have arthritis, a condition you should discuss with your veterinarian.
A proper diet, suitable for older dogs, is crucial to your dog's overall health. As the immune system becomes weaker, it is harder for dogs to fight off infections. For that reason, the AVMA recommends parasite control. As well, maintaining a healthy weight reduces some of the pressure on aging joints, hips and bones. To improve the immune system and overall physical health, some guardians choose to provide a diet that supports a healthy gut.
Some guardians notice their beloved canine has some cognitive decline as he gets older. You can discuss these changes with your veterinarian, and support your pet's mental acuity with interactive attention.
Should You Give Supplements?
Like people, many pets may benefit from foods and supplements that support their changing health needs as they grow older. Specifically, many guardians are turning to probiotics to support a healthy immune system and joint supplements to promote physical well-being in their canine companions.
In 2015, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences reported that several studies showed that certain strains of probiotic bacteria held the potential to improve canine health. Specifically, the bacteria may be promising in preventing stress diarrhea and may promote anti-inflammatory properties.
In 2017, the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University reported that veterinary diets designed to reduce joint pain had some documented success. These diets typically contained such ingredients as glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fatty acids.
In consultation with their veterinarian, who can assess the potential role for supplements in a senior dog's health plan, many guardians may, therefore, opt to try these ingredients to support their loved one's well-being.
Working with Your Dog
As your dog ages, his needs with change. As his guardian, you probably know and understand him better than anyone else. Working with a veterinary professional, you can introduce concrete measures to help your canine have a comfortable, happy old age, making your years with him as joyful as possible.
- Jennifer M