Pet Tips: Caring for an older dog

gray beard dogHere at Brunswick Plantation & Golf Resort, a gated golf course retirement community, we love our pets. We are all aware we need to care for ourselves as we age.  This post is focused on caring for an older dog.

Perhaps your dog doesn’t go after all the squirrels in your yard now.  Or she’s a bit slower to come and say hello when you arrive.  And you notice some gray appearing on her muzzle.  Age is setting in on your dog.  However, dogs can live long full lives today with help from their owners and vets.  Here are some tips for caring for an older dog.

Q: How old is old?

A: It depends…largely on the size of the dog breed.  The larger the dog the faster they age.  Giant breeds like Great Danes may be considered old at 5 or 6 years.  Medium sized breeds like cocker spaniels will be 8 before being “old”.  The small dogs like Toy Poodles usually get to 10 before reaching the old category.

Q: What does old look like?

A:  Gray fur will appear around the head and chest.  You’ll find more bumps, lumps, and eyelid tumors indicating the immune system is not working as well.  Lower energy levels can translate into less active and playing.  You may see hip bones protruding and less muscle.  Hearing and sight can deteriorate.

Q: Do older dogs have different mentalities?

A: Yes, they can.  They might become aggressive or perhaps anti social as the grow older.  They might have “accidents” in the house.  They may loose interest in food and playing.

Q: Can dogs get Alzheimer’s disease?

A: Not exactly, but the can get a cognitive disorder syndrome which has similar sypmtoms.  They may sleep more in the day and less at night.  They might go into a room the don’t normally go into and be confused.  Their senses will dull.  However, there are some new drugs that are doing wonderful things to counter this.

veterinary hospitalQ: What medical problems to aging dogs have the most?

A: About half of dogs over 10 years old will perish from cancer.  Other common health issues are heart failure, renal and kidney disease, and diabetes.  Be on the lookout for changes in thirstiness and bathroom habits.  Pain from moving around or not moving around as signs.

Orijen-Senior-Dry-Dog-Food_grandeQ:  Do older dogs need a different diet? 

A:  Some breeds will need more protein as they age.  However, all older dogs should eat food that is lower in calories and fat.  A certain disorder may require specific diets as well.

Q:  How can I help comfort an aging dog?

A: Try using steps or ramps if you let them on the couch or bed.  Also, carpets or rugs will reduce slipping on solid surface floors.

Get very soft bedding.

dog rampGet a drinking fountain to keep water cooler and aerated.   This will reduce dehydration as it will encourage drinking.

Heat their food to improve the aroma.  As they loos their sense of smell this can help stimulate them.

Having a sibling or other pet to interact with creates happier, healthier dogs.

Q: Should I get vaccinations my older dog? 

A:  If you take your dog to dog parks or board them then vaccinate yearly.  Otherwise, work with your vet to assess your dogs medical history, current health level, age, lifestyle, and existing risks to decide how to vaccinate.

Q: What drugs or treatments can help revitalize an older dog? 

A: There are some fantastic arthritis drugs available  They can really improve the quality of life a an inactive, depressed, overweight dog due to arthritis.

A new FDA approved weight loss drug is out there too.

For dogs with separation anxiety a great drug called Reconcile in chewable form is available.  Its has shown wonderful results.

pet-supplementsQ: Should I use supplements and vitamins for my aging dog?

A: Make sure to work with your Vet to determine what is needed.  A one size fits all approach is no good.  The only thing that all dogs could benefit from is potentiated antioxidants.  These will help reduce free radical damage to the brain that comes with all aging.

Have any questions or comments?  Feel free to contact us here, on Facebook,  or post to comments.

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