How to help your family dog as they start to age?
Photo by Reba Spike on Unsplash
Your older dog may have the spirit it had as a pup, but physical limitations will need to be carefully considered as you upgrade its space. Your dog may be more sensitive to heat and cold, need a few more naps, and need a slower walk.
Check their diet
Special senior dog food can offer extra protein and may even contain glucosamine for sore joints. To successfully change their diet, start by removing 25% of their regular food from the bowl and mixing in 25% of the new food. Reactions to a new food can show up in their skin and in their stool.
My dog has a sensitive tummy, so I used this ratio for a week and monitored her stool output for diarrhea or a change in frequency. The next week, I did a 50/50 split, then 25/75, and finally 100%. I did notice that, while she eats the same portion, she has changed when she consumes the majority of her food. However, with this slow switch, I was able to transition her to a diet formulated for older dogs without any serious digestive shocks.
Keep them active
Your older dog still needs a walk, even if it can’t travel quite as far or as fast. At this time, it’s critical that you separate their walk from your workout. If you need to go faster, do so on your own time.
Make sure you also review your dog’s group activities. If they attend doggie daycare, check out who they’re playing with and how rough things are getting. A healthy young dog may get enough exercise at daycare to come home happy and a little worn out, but an older dog can come home exhausted and sore.
Now is also the time to take extra care in the dog park. Yes, they may still play bow and run like a young pup when they meet their favorite canine at the dog park. However, you can protect them from exhaustion and soreness by scheduling breaks for your pet.
Help them stay stable
Older dogs may struggle with hip and spinal issues. To avoid jolts to their physical frame, consider investing in steps they can use to get to their favorite sleeping spots or hanging out points, whether that’s a bed or a sofa.
If you notice that your favorite pooch is really struggling with leg or spinal pain in the morning or after a nap, check out WiggleLess braces to help them stay stable. As dogs age, they can lose spinal strength. Long-bodied dogs are especially sensitive to this disc pain and may need extra support.
Get a few more beds
Your older dog is going to need more naps and more resting spaces throughout your home. An extra resting spot can be especially important when an older dog lives on hardwood floors or ceramic tiles. When putting down a new dog bed, keep an eye on the loft.
The combination of poly fabric and foam can lead to a lot of heat build-up. If at all possible, get them a bed made of a cooling gel foam or refill an old bed they avoid with a cooling gel foam insert; you can easily cut down a cooling gel mattress topper for comfort. A cooling blanket, folded, can be laid out for your dog if they have gotten used to sleeping on the bare floor or carpet alone.
Keep them cool
Make sure you are also monitoring the temperature in your home. Keeping your home too warm in the wintertime can leave your dog both uncomfortably hot and dry out. Their diet and the flea preventative you use will have a big impact on their skin health.
You may also choose to give them a coconut oil supplement or a Vitamin E supplement. Whenever you choose to make a dietary or supplement change, make sure you do it on a day when your dog will either have your company or access to the outside; supplements and dietary changes can lead to diarrhea and your dog may be restless and need more time outside.
Helping an old dog into their senior years takes care and focus. They may lose their hearing and become a bit more forgetful; they may struggle to see or to get to the things they want to study and sniff. Make the necessary schedule changes to help them enjoy these last years.