Dogs have an unfortunate habit of growing old much faster than humans so if you’re a dog person, there are probably going to be a few times where you’ll be living with a senior dog. The good news is that senior dogs are just as incredible as their younger selves! Generally speaking, most dogs are considered seniors when they’re around 7 years old but it does depend on their breed. Larger dogs, like Great Pyrenees and Newfoundlands, sadly have a shorter lifespan and are considered seniors around 5-6 years old. On the other hand, small dog breeds like dachshunds and toy fox terriers are considered seniors when they’re around 11 years old.
There are so many things you can do to provide senior dogs with the best life possible in their old age. While they might not be able to go on marathon hikes or runs like they used to, there are so many wonderful things you can do with a senior pup. Here are some ways to provide a great retirement to a senior dog.
Like humans, some dogs will start to lose their sight and hearing as they get older. Most won’t lose either completely but it will be harder for them to see and hear. So it may seem like your senior dog is ignoring you at times but the truth is that they just might not hear or see you! It also might seem like a senior dog gets surprised more, as it can be easy for them to not notice someone (or something) until it’s right next to them. That kind of surprise could result in some mild but defensive aggression so it could be important to learn how to announce your presence in different ways, like using the vibrations of knocking on a nearby surface.
Look Out For Health Problems
Like people, a dog’s body changes as they get older and some age-related problems might arise. Arthritis and joint pain are two common problems for senior dogs but the good news is that your veterinarian should be able to help you come up with solutions and treatments. Some medical treatments, like pain medication or CBD oil, can help with any pain that may arise. There are also massage therapists that work with small animals!
Older dogs are also prone to dental issues and heart or kidney disease. Dental care will be just as important as ever, so regularly brushing your dog’s teeth or buying dental chews can really help. Dental disease can lead to all sorts of issues, including kidney disease. The symptoms of kidney disease include significant weight loss, vomiting, stumbling, a significant decrease in appetite, and an increase or decrease in water consumption and urine output.
Adjust Life Accordingly
Having a senior dog also means having to change your lifestyle around. Some dogs can be active until the day they die but odds are that you’ll have to figure out a new daily routine to fit what your dog is physically capable of. There’s a good chance that walks will be slower but staying active is still important! Your senior dog might not be able to go on the long hikes you both love but that doesn’t mean you still can’t go on adventures. Just make sure to keep an eye on what your dog is capable of and know when to turn around.
Adding more dog beds around your house can also be great, as dogs often love being near their people. For senior dogs, having a comfortable and cushy place to lay down can really help avoid the added pain and stiffness that can come from laying on cold, hard surfaces. Dog ramps or stairs can also help out any senior dog with stiff joints or decreased mobility to get upstairs or onto a couch.
Another adjustment you might need to make is to their diet. If they’ve had dental problems, digestive issues, or heart/kidney disease, senior dogs will need certain food that will help with those issues while also providing the nutrition they need. A lower calorie diet can be great, as senior dogs might be less active than before and have a slower metabolic rate. Food that’s high in fiber and low in sodium can also help digestion.
As dogs get older, they become more sensitive to hot and cold weather so it’ll be more important to keep them cool during the summer and warm in the winter. Sweaters and booties can help when it’s particularly cold outside and booties have the added benefit of helping your dog navigate any snow or ice. Socks with rubberized soles can also help dogs that are having trouble navigating hardwood floors in the house.
During the summer, swimming or hydrotherapy can be a great way to cool down while also getting exercise. Being in the water is a great low-impact exercise and great for dogs with arthritis or joint pain. However, if your dog is recovering from an injury or illness (particularly an ear infection), make sure to wait until they’ve healed or until you check with your vet. Some dogs could also benefit greatly from having a life jacket, as swimming can be an intense activity and some dogs don’t always know when to stop.
Swimming isn’t for every dog, as breeds with long backs, short legs, brachycephalic faces, or some combination just aren’t physically built for the water. This means that breeds like dachshunds, English and French bulldogs, basset hounds, and pugs won’t do well swimming. However, like any other breed, these dogs could benefit from things like shallow kiddie pools or sprinklers! Even individual dogs might not enjoy swimming and the activity might bring unnecessary stress. The important thing is to keep in mind what your dog likes and is physically capable of.
Have A Bucket List
There are so many heartwarming stories of people doing bucket list items with their senior dogs or taking their dogs on adventures/road trips. The important thing with this is to do activities that you know your dog with absolutely love and even try a few new things! If you need some ideas, here are some fun things to try:
- Make a dog friendly cake or frozen yogurt.
- Camping trips
- Road trips
- Have a photo shoot (maybe with costumes!)
- Go to the beach
- Have a spa day
- Make art together
- Go to their favorite park
Senior dogs are wonderful but require a certain type of care at the end of their lives. The good news is that there are so many ways you can provide the best life for your senior pup! A great veterinarian can help you deal with any health issues your dog might face while things like comfy beds and ramps can help your dog deal with issues like arthritis. And while senior dogs might slow down later in life, there are still so many fun activities you can do.
Have you cared for a senior dog before? Let me know in the comments!