by Jennifer Sawyer
As your dog gets older, you may notice some changes in them- specifically regarding their health and behaviour. Becoming a senior may mean that your dog has begun to slow down, so as pet parents it is important to continue to support them as best we can. Navigating the senior life stage can be tricky, so we are here to help! Here are some tips on how to support your aging dog:
Keep A Close Eye On Your Dog
No one knows your pet, as well as you do! So continue to diligently watch your senior dog, to determine if their behaviour or physical state has altered in any way. Some things to watch for are:
- Stumbling, or walking difficulties
- Staring off into the distance
- Bumping into furniture
- Decreased appetite
- Increased Anxiety
- Urinating/defecating in the house
- Altered sleep cycle
- Decreased activity
- Altered demeanor (grumpy/aggression or depression)
While some of these things may seem miniscule, it is important to inform your veterinarian if you notice any of these changes! Often times, behavioural changes may be caused by medical conditions- so it’s better to air on the side of caution and speak with your pet’s healthcare provider to ensure there are in good health.
Routine Veterinary Visits
While you know your dog’s routine and behaviour best, some health changes are not easily spotted, or visible at all. This is why it is important to continue to bring your dog to the vet! Usually, pets see their vet annual but senior pets typically require biannual visits, as their condition is more likely to alter throughout the year than that of a younger pet. This allows your vet (and you!) to keep an extra close eye on your dog’s health.
During the visit your vet will be able to thoroughly examine your pet from head to toe for any abnormalities. At this time you will also be able to collaborate with your veterinarian to curate a healthcare plan that works best for both you and your furry family member.
As your pet ages, it becomes increasingly important to perform routine bloodwork. Bloodwork reflects exactly what is going on within their body, providing insight as to how well their vital organs are functioning. It is not uncommon for a pet to develop age related changes, or disease, of their vital organs. Conducting annual bloodwork will allow your vet to diagnose your pet with any potential health conditions, and allow them to safely prescribe medications (and food) to better support your pet’s health. Without doing bloodwork, your vet may be limited as to their ability to diagnose as well as prescribe.
As your dog ages, they may require different nutrients in their diet, to better support their current health. There are so many different diets out there, so it is important to speak with your vet prior to choosing a new diet. Your vet is the only one who can make an educated, safe and appropriate diet recommendation for your pet. The reason for this is they are aware of any health condition’s and nutrient requirements your pet has.
For example, if bloodwork reveals that your dog has kidney disease, there are prescription diets specifically created for supporting that! If your dog is diabetic, there are foods for that too! Moreover, another common health condition that aging pets are likely to develop is arthritis. Ingredients such as glucosamine, and omega fatty acids are often incorporated into mobility diets to support arthritis.
There are so many foods available to support various conditions, and senior pets specifically that I highly recommend speaking with your vet about finding the best diet possible for your beloved companion. Together, you and your vet can find the perfect food for your pet!
If you are not comfortable altering your pet’s diet- or they have dietary restrictions/allergies, supplements may be a good idea! As mentioned previously, if your pet has developed arthritis or seems to have decreased mobility- supplements can help. The supplements may include: glucosamine, chondroitin and/or omega fatty acids. These are meant for supporting joint function! If your pet isn’t easy to give supplements to, there are senior and/or mobility diets that already contain these ingredients. Additionally, there are over the counter supplements that your vet may provide for other conditions such as liver or kidney disease.
Important Note: Please do not medicate your pet in any way (prescription or supplement) without consulting with your veterinarian first. Do NOT give any human medications to your pet.
Making small adjustments to your home can make your aging dog’s life easier, especially if they suffer from mobility issues! Some things you can try:
- Placing yoga mats, grip strips, or rugs around the house. This gives your pet more traction when getting up and walking, allowing them to move confidently and safely.
- Using booties- not just outside! Utilizing booties inside can also give your pet the traction they need to move around safely. Just be sure to use ones that are breathable and thin so they aren’t too cumbersome!
- Use ramps throughout the house. Stairs can be challenging for aging dogs, so if possible- utilizing ramps can help your dog get to the different levels of your house (or to higher surfaces such as beds or couches) with ease. If you cannot accommodate ramps, and you are worried that your dog may injure themselves on the stairs, use baby gates to protect them from using the stairs without supervision.
- Purchase a stroller! Since aging dogs usually suffer from decreased mobility, getting them out for long walks may no longer be feasible. BUT you may find they still want to go. To keep them safe, and allow them to get outside for those beloved long walks- use a stroller. That way you can let them walk the distance they are physically comfortably with and when they need a rest they can be placed in the stroller, while still enjoying the outdoors.
- If you live in a home without outdoor space, you can make going outside easier on your pet (and you!) by using a Porch Potty. That way they don’t have to use stairs, or travel a long distance to use the bathroom! This can be especially important for an aging dog as they may need to relieve themselves more frequently as they age.
Aging is a natural process that is unique to each dog. Along with aging, usually come special needs. It is best to prepare yourself for this journey into the senior life stage so that you are able to support your dog’s health as much as you can. With diligent monitoring and support your aging dog will have the best chance at maintaining their health and living a happy life well into their senior days!