As dogs get older, they are likely to experience an increased number of health problems. Just like humans, they will slow down and may begin to suffer from sore joints, poor eyesight and hearing loss, amongst other things.
Unfortunately, however, dogs cannot tell us if they are suffering. Therefore, it is important that owners spot behavioural and physical changes. In this blog we discuss some of the common problems older dogs are likely to face as they enter their senior years. We also give practical advice that owners can implement at home to ensure dogs remain happy and healthy into old age.
When is a dog classed as senior?
The age a dog is considered senior is dependent on the breed and a number of other factors including, genetics, diet and lifestyle. Typically, small breeds are not classed as senior until they reach double figures, whereas larger dogs hit old age at about 7-8. Of course, there are exceptions and it is not uncommon for a large dog to remain fit and healthy into their teenage years. Speak to your vet for an accurate indication of whether your dog is classed as senior.
What should I feed my elderly dog?
When dogs get older, they tend to become less mobile and can experience a loss of energy and motivation. As a result, they can put on weight, which will put extra strain on their joints and can exacerbate conditions such as heart disease and Osteoarthritis.
Older dogs may also experience a loss of appetite and have problems digesting food. Therefore, we recommend speaking to your vet who will be able to suggest a specially formulated diet for senior dogs. Senior diets usually contain less fat and calories and are easily digestible.
If you notice that your dog has lost weight, this could indicate a serious underlying medical condition. Do not discount it as a product of old age, book an appointment to see your vet.
Top tip: if you are advised to change your dog’s food, please don’t do it overnight as this can lead to stomach upsets. Always introduce new foods gradually, by slowly adding increasing amounts to your dog’s existing food.
My dog has stiff joints and finds getting up difficult, what should I do?
It is common for dogs to experience sore joints as they get older. Conditions such as Osteoarthritis can be painful and frustrating and can take their toll on your dog’s wellbeing. If you notice your dog is limping, having difficulty getting up, or licking the joints of their feet or legs take them to your vet for a check-up. There are a number of Osteoarthritis treatments that can help alleviate symptoms and associated pain.
Should I still take my senior dogs on walks?
Absolutely! Exercise is vital to the physical and mental wellbeing of your dog. We recommend taking your dog on little walks at regular intervals throughout the day. This will give them the chance to go to the toilet, prevent the loss of muscle mass and provide mental stimulation.
Older dogs appreciate a set routine so try to go at similar times wherever possible. If your dog looks tired, let them stop and have a rest and try not to take them too far.
Top tip: due to decreased activity levels you may need to cut your senior dogs claws more regularly.
How often should I take my senior dog to the vet?
Older dogs may benefit from more frequent visits to the vet. Try and see your vet at least every 6 months, so they can monitor your dog’s health and wellbeing. They may want to take regular urine or blood samples and monitor your dog’s weight and blood pressure. As part of our Pet Health Club you can get two ‘nose to tail’ health checks per year.
How can I adapt my home for my senior dog?
There are a number of small changes that you can make to your home, which may make your senior dog more comfortable. If they are suffering from sore joints and decreased mobility, make sure food and water is easily accessible, without having to go upstairs or walk far. Temporary ramps can help dogs getting in and out of the car.
Senior dogs may struggle to climb onto the sofa and may find sleeping on hard floors painful. Ensure they have warm and comfy bed to sleep on at ground level and plenty of rugs to stop them slipping on hardwood or lino floors.
Should I groom my senior dog?
As dogs get older their hair can become dry and coarse and they may experience sensitive skin. Grooming is a great way to spend quality time with your pet and removing tangles will make them feel more comfortable. Tackle small sections at a time and use a soft brush.
My senior dog has started going to the toilet inside, what should I do?
Older dogs can suffer from incontinence and may forget that they are toilet trained. Spayed females in particular may experience difficulties with bladder control and may sometimes leave a small wet patch when they get up. It’s important not to get cross with your dog and try to be understanding and make allowances. Let your dog into the garden more regularly and consult your vet for advice. There is often effective treatment or medication that can be administered.
Does my senior dog still need annual boosters?
Yes! It’s a common misconception that older dogs do not need to be vaccinated against infectious diseases and parasites such as ticks and worms. Ensure your dog has annual boosters throughout their life.
Top tip: yearly vaccinations, worming tablets, flea treatment and a range of other benefits are available as part of Pet Health Club. Our pet health club is a cost effective way to ensure your pet gets the best preventative healthcare.
For more advice about caring for your senior dog please get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable team.