Caring for an Aging Dog

While the “elderly” classification varies for dogs—bigger breeds might be considered seniors at six years, while smaller breeds don’t enter their elderly years until 10 or older—you need to be aware of how to take care of your dog when she becomes a senior. Here, a Portland veterinarian offers help.

Physical Signs of Aging

Unsure if your dog is considered old? Call your veterinarian to find out for sure, but look for these signs in the meantime—reduced movement, reduced playfulness, eating and drinking less, declining eyesight and hearing, and graying fur around the mouth, chest, or head. In most cases, you can tell a dog is getting older when he’s just not as quick and sparky as he once was.

Mental Changes

Physical changes aren’t the only kind to appear with old age—mental changes might be on the horizon as well. Older dogs can become less social, more withdrawn, or even aggressive as they age. Set up an appointment with your veterinary professional to have your dog examined and get an idea of what treatments and remedies are available.

Diet

Your pooch’s nutritional requirements will change slightly as he gets older. Most older dogs will need a reduced-calorie and reduced-fat diet to prevent obesity, especially since their activity level and exercise has probably decreased substantially. Different dogs will require different levels of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other compounds—ask your veterinarian to help you pick the right diet for your dog. Some even need specially-formulated food to combat specific disorders, like kidney disease.

How to Make Daily Life Easier

Build or purchase ramps and dog stairs to help your dog up on furniture or onto the front porch. Consider lining these with carpet patches, since older dogs might slip on slick wooden planks or tile. When you see your dog eyeing up the stairs, help him up to reduce the strain on the joints and muscles.

Keep your pet well-hydrated, as many elderly dogs tend to stop drinking enough water. Also try heating food up to release the aroma; it will help your dog’s declining sense of smell.

A soft warm bed is also a godsend for many elderly dogs. Ask your Portland veterinarian for a recommendation, as well as other tips for making your older dog’s life more manageable.

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