By Priya Poduval
Senior dogs or dogs around 8 to 10 years and plus have different needs and care requirements than those of a much younger dog. But how do you know when your dog is considered to be a senior or reaching his retirement years?
It really depends on the individual dog breed. In general, giant or large breed dogs age faster than smaller breed dogs. A Great Dane or Saint Bernard or similar large breed dogs are considered to be senior by roughly 5-6 years old, whereas a Chihuahua or Pomeranian or a Lhasa Apso and similar smaller breeds would likely only be middle-aged then, and probably not considered a senior until 10-11 years. Medium breed dogs fall somewhere in between. A Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever might be considered senior by 8-10 years of age. Genetics, nutrition, environment, exercise all of these play a role in how fast your dog reaches seniorhood.
What are some of the things to expect as your dog ages? Your dog may develop arthritis or other degenerative diseases that cause him to slow down. Like all senior dogs also may get tired easily. He may not be able to walk as far or play as long. He may tire more easily with a simple game of fetch which he would love to play in his younger days. He may have difficulty getting up or finding a comfortable position to sleep in. He may become reluctant to go up and down stairs or have difficulty getting into and out of the car. It may be difficult to control his bowel movement for a longer duration. He may be losing some weight.
Without proper care, dental disease is very common and can pose a serious problem, particularly for older pets. You may be surprised to learn that veterinarians find evidence of dental disease in many pets as early as 2-3 years of age. If nothing is done to care for your dog’s teeth like by getting them cleaned or frequent brushing or giving them specially designed chewsticks to remove the tarter, then by the time your dog is a senior, he may even lose some teeth. Dental disease can be painful, causing your dog to avoid or have difficulty eating his meals. This may result in weight loss and an unkempt hair coat.
Senior Dogs also frequently suffer from kidney, liver and heart disease. Especially flat snout dogs like pugs, bulldogs and so in suffer from heart disease and respiratory issues in the later years.
Some Senior dogs may have an issue with weight gain as they tire easily, they are not having a very active lifestyle and thus they gain weight. Then they may develop hind leg problems like arthritis. These are some of the major health issues of senior pets.
As a responsible pet parent, what can you do for your senior pet to make their retirement years magical and healthy?
Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. A regular blood test once in six months is advisable, so to understand the internal health of your senior dog.
Remember it’s much cheaper to prevent disease than to cure it.
Feed your older dog less but good quality food. Generally, we prefer fresh home-cooked meals of chicken, rice and dog-friendly vegetables and add a little bit of turmeric so that they get a diet of protein and fiber with little carbs.
You may add a few essential oils like salmon oil or olive oil too. You can choose the number of meals as per your dog’s age and daily requirements.
Take care of your pet’s oral health. Frequent brushing with a finger brush and pet-friendly toothpaste will keep the tarter away. In case, you cannot brush then consider giving them dental chewsticks and toys to keep their teeth clean. One trick is to add a little bit of coriander in their diet to keep their breath fresh.
Regular walks will help your senior pet to remain lean and will keep his joints and muscles healthy. Walking is the best exercise for your pets. It helps them to meet new people and other furry friends on their walks. Walking helps them to sniff around and enjoy some fresh air.
Provide your older dogs with some special care at home. Like some dogs with hind leg issues can slip on the tiled floor at home. Provide them with anti-slip rugs in places they roam around the most. A nice comfortable and cozy bed to sleep in because in the golden years they spent most of their time sleeping and resting.
And above all, lots of cuddles and love is all they need in their retirement years. Nothing tells your dog that you love them than a nice belly rub. A nice massage will make them feel relaxed, especially dogs with joint pains. Physical contact is more important than ever as your pet ages. It makes them feel loved and cared for. As they themselves are trying to adjust with the different issues of aging, maximise every opportunity of bonding with your pet.
We understand as much as you would love to spend time and care for senior pets, but due to the demanding lifestyle and genuine problems sometimes families are not able to look after their aging pets’ needs. Looking at the need of the hour and for the love of these four-legged pooches, we have built a cozy and comfortable retirement home for pets, where your special furbaby will be loved, and cared by us. Do call us to know more about our Pet Oldage programme. We will be happy to assist you.