By Courtney Emken
co-written by Jen Larson, KPA-CTP
When dogs grow older, they require a different standard of care than before. While they may always be that playful puppy in our eyes, their wellness needs have changed entirely. Here’s our guide for helping your senior dog make the most out of their later days.
#1 Closely Monitor A Senior Dog’s Health
Physical health is often the unseen root of behavioral problems. Many people say their older dogs have just become “grumpy,” but aloofness and irritation can be signs of an underlying medical problem. Dogs display their discomfort through behavior instead vocalization.
If your dog has worsening behavioral issues or so-called “grumpiness,” it could be the result of:
To differentiate between normal aging and health issues you need to establish a baseline. This means recording and monitoring your senior dog’s health and habits. Make sure you know:
- Their average weight
- How much they eat
- Their typical activity level
If you watch these factors closely, then you can determine when they change. Gradual changes aren’t cause for much concern. However, sudden changes in diet/activity accompanied with irritability or lethargy are warning signs of serious illness.
Keep In Mind A Senior Dog’s Sensitivities
Dogs of any age need to be physically active and mentally engaged, whether they’re twelve months old or twelve years old. Don’t just let them sit in a room all day without any meaningful interaction. We now know old dogs CAN learn new tricks, so get out there and play!
However, as dogs age, downtime and rest will become more and more important. They may have been able to handle a thirty minute run their entire lives, but when they hit thirteen it could be too much for them. Acknowledge their changing sensitivities and plan around them.
Give your dog plenty of time to rest, and be sure you’re not pushing them too hard. Whenever you go out for exercise or training, go at the dog’s pace instead of your own. They may just need a moment to relax and then they’re right back with you, or they may need to turn in early.
Senior dogs are also more sensitive to their environment in general. Things they used to brush off when they were younger will affect them more strongly, like:
Their bones and joints are older and can’t take as much stress as they once did. Their personal space bubble may grow larger too, especially around young children and other animals. Their excitement can cause stress for older dogs.
#3 Take A Proactive Role In Your Senior Dog’s Wellbeing
The best defense is a good offense. Take proactive action to protect your senior dog’s wellbeing and prevent health complications from arising down the road. We recommend:
- Regular vet visits
- Giving joint supplements
- Managing their weight
- Keeping them mobile
Careful weight management is key to every senior dog’s care. One of the biggest problems older dogs face is weight gain from overfeeding coupled with decreased activity. Increased weight causes tons of complications, as it’s hard on their heart, joints, and respiration.
Watch for signs of weight gain, and take proper precautions to prevent it. Many people will buy dog food with weight management formulas, but these are typically unnecessary. Most dogs just need less food, not diet food.
Pair these diet choices with gentle activity. We recommend going to a stretch or canine massage class. Here, your dog can relax their sore or tight joints. These classes can improve mobility and walking too, opening up a new range of activities for you and your dog.
At DogBoy’s, we’ve seen dogs of all ages enjoy their time at the Ranch. We’re currently designing gentle stretch classes for senior dogs. If you’re interested, please contact us today. We love to see elder dogs having a blast in their old age.
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