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How To Care For An Older Dog

Our pets are part of our family for life. However, there comes a time when your dog is no longer the rambunctious puppy or healthy adult. Like humans, dogs will age, and they will need more care or even some changes in their daily routine.

It’s up to us as responsible pet owners to take care of our aging pets. That might mean changing some things about our routine. Here’s what you’ll need to think about if you’re caring for an aging pet.

Common Health Conditions To Watch Out For

There are some common health conditions in senior dogs to watch out for. Remember, dogs can’t tell us where it hurts or why they’re struggling with stairs all of a sudden. It’s up to us to notice these signs and get your dog treatment.

Common health problems include:

  • Arthritis

  • Deafness

  • Loss of vision

  • Kidney disease

  • Fading cognitive function (similar to dementia or Alzheimer's in humans)

  • Incontinence

  • Cancers, tumors, and growths (some benign, some not)

  • Obesity

Some of these problems can be dealt with at home. For example, if your dog is going deaf or blind, make sure that you don’t startle them and be extra patient. Obesity and incontinence can also be managed at home, with help from a vet.

However, some of the more serious issues on this list might require veterinary help, medications, surgery, or pain management. If you notice a change in your older dog or have any suspicions, take your dog to be seen by a vet.

Treatments At Home

There are herbal treatments you can give your dog at home. However, be sure to consult a vet first - herbal remedies won’t do much good if your dog needs antibiotics!

  • Aloe vera

Aloe vera has soothing, cooling properties, and also works as a mild antibacterial for both people and animals. However, it should only be applied topically - dogs must not ingest aloe vera. So, if you choose to apply some aloe vera to a scrape, burn, or an irritated section of skin, make sure that your dog doesn’t lick the aloe vera.

  • Ginger

Ginger is fantastic for settling dodgy tummies, and can be used as a tincture or tea. It also tastes good, which may make it easier to convince your dog to drink some ginger tea.

  • Goldenseal

Goldenseal is a powerful antibiotic. It can be used to treat eye infections or stomach issues and can be made into a tea or tincture.

  • Milk thistle

Milk thistle prevents liver damage, and helps repair existing damage. If your dog has liver problems or has been on medication which can damage the liver, why not try a milk thistle herbal remedy?

It’s important to consult with your vet before giving your dog any herbal remedies, especially if your dog already has health issues or is on any medication.

Keeping Your Older Dog Comfortable

Just like with older humans, senior dogs may need a little extra consideration. An old dog may struggle to get a grip with its paws on a hard floor, so you might want to consider carpeting your floors or adding rugs or other grips.

Older dogs will likely need to go to the toilet more frequently. Don’t be angry or surprised if your older dog starts having accidents, especially if they’re left alone for a long period.

Make sure that your dog has somewhere comfortable to sleep. Your dog might be accustomed to jumping on the couch or even sleeping on the floor, but as they age they may need somewhere more comfortable, ideally away from cold draughts and with plenty of cushioning.

Make sure that everything is accessible - their food, water, and bedding. Older dogs often struggle with stairs, so try and keep everything on one level, if possible.

Feeding and Exercise Needs

Obesity can be a serious problem in older dogs. Older dogs tend to need less exercise - they have lower energy levels and may have other issues like arthritis. This means that your dog will need fewer walks - but not enough exercise can cause your dog to gain weight.

Weight gain can exacerbate existing health issues in dogs, so it’s important to keep your dog to a healthy weight. You can do this by walking your dog little but often, and possibly reducing their portion of food.

On the other hand, your dog may start to lose weight. This could be because they’re competing for food with younger dogs, or for some other reason. Lack of appetite could be something as simple as bad teeth, or something more serious.

Older dogs tend to have smaller appetites, but shouldn’t lose their appetite altogether. If you’re concerned about your dog’s food intake or weight, speak to a vet.

If you suspect that your dog is being pushed out when it comes to mealtimes, consider feeding your dog separately at a different time.

General Considerations

When it comes to caring for an older dog, there are a lot of extra considerations to take into account. For example, an older dog’s nails may need clipping more often, as they’re not getting worn down by exercise.

Older dogs still need mental stimulation and love, although they may now prefer sleeping on their dog bed to sleeping on your lap! Puzzles can keep your dog entertained while you’re away.

Be aware that deaf and/or blind dogs may need extra help, especially if their sense of smell is not as sharp as it was. Dogs may start to feel anxious if they can’t see or hear as well as they once could - aging dogs can get a little cranky!

Consider not walking your dog in the heat, rain, or extreme cold, as older dogs may overheat or get cold more quickly. Dog coats can keep them warm and dry in the cold.

Monitor your dog’s eating and general habits, as it’s more likely that your dog will develop a health issue at this age. Above all, make sure that your senior dog is still as loved and cared for as they were when they were a puppy.

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