How to Care for a Geriatric Dog
There are many care concerns for older dogs. If your dog is aging, you need to help it to be safe, comfy, and healthy, in its senior years.
How Old is Old for a Dog?
Small dogs age slower than large dogs. A small dog, such as a Shih Tzu, might be considered to be old at 10 years of age, a larger dog, like a Great Dane, might be considered to be a old at 5 years of age. Read Here on how to convert dog years to human years.
Feeding an Old Dog
Dogs are generally considered to be seniors at age 7 in terms of feeding, and dietary requirements. It is important to note your dog's overall health condition before switching it from an adult food to a senior food. Most senior dog foods assume the dog is getting fat (obesity is actually a very common problem in dogs). Stay away from weight reduction formulas if your senior dog is not putting on the pounds.
As your dog gets older you may want to look for ingredients that help with age related problems such as arthritis. Such ingredients include Yucca, glucosamine, and chondroitin. You can also find dog treats that contain glucosamine and chondroitin to help with joint pain.
Older dogs may have more problems eating harder food, you may find that your dog needs teeth pulled and as such canned food might be easier for it to eat.
Note: A lot of health problems that show up in older dogs are related to poor diets when they were younger.
Aches and Pains
Dogs with aches and pains will not want to move around as much, and may have trouble going up and down stairs. You should also encourage some light exercise so the dog does not become too stiff as a result of inactivity. The dog should still be walked, although you may opt for shorter walks.
Another factor to consider with aches and pains is that older dogs tend to prefer to be warm, a chill can cause them to feel arthritic pains more so. This is not to say the dog should be overheated, but it should be kept in a warmer part of the house rather than a cold one, and if it goes outside care should be taken not to let it out on colder days. You can buy heating pads for dogs to sleep on when they reach the stage in their life that they want to be kept extra warm.
Dogs can go senile. They tend to become more need and may appear disoriented. You can help to keep your dog safe and relaxed at this stage in its life by keeping it in a smaller space, but one where you still frequent. You may shut off doors that lead to the basement or other areas. Keep the home peaceful and stress free. If you are expecting guests, or are planning a chaotic party, put the dog in a quieter part of the house. Dogs who are experiencing senility should not go outside when the yard is not fenced.
Veterinary Care and Other Health Issues
Dogs can often have serious health problems as they get old, many related to the diet they were on when younger, or related to care they have (or have not) received throughout their life. It is a good idea to visit the veterinarian to have your senior dog checked out for any health problems before they get too bad. To note, dogs can suffer from diabetes, thyroid problems, cancer, and many other health concerns.
Vestibular disease is a concern that should be watched for in older dogs. A tilt of the head is usually the first indication of the problem which can be traced to their inner ear. Their sense of balance is off and they may even fall over. This problem tends to occur most often after the age of 14 years.
Blindness and hearing loss are common concerns in older dogs, and owners should try to make their home safer for an old dog, particularly one that is blind. Try to keep the furniture in the same place but remove all other odds and ends that the dog may bump into.
Be aware that old dogs often develop lumps and bumps. Older dogs can get warts, cysts, or cancerous tumors. Warts are generally smaller, cancerous tumors are often larger, nonetheless it is always a good idea to have any lumps, or bumps, checked by a vet.
If your dog is thin, or dropping weight, you may want to have a vet examine it for health problems, such as a thyroid condition, kidney failure, cancer, or other problem. If your dog is fat you may want it checked for diabetes (especially if showing other symptoms such as frequent urination).
With good care you can help your senior dog have a happy, healthy, life.