You know how easy it is to love a puppy? All that bounce and zest for life is hard to dislike. But when a dog gets old, they don’t tend to be so lovable, do they? Knowing how to cope with an old dog isn’t always easy. It’s still the same dog, though!
She may be old, but she needs you now more than ever, doesn’t she? You have a duty to look after her in her old age, even though it might not be easy. So, rather than worrying about how you will cope, why not adopt a strategy that works. It’s easier than you think.
This article will detail how to cope with a pet getting old. There’s so much you can do to make her twilight years better, happier and healthier too. Old age for your dog doesn’t have to be sad and depressing. Discover how to cope with an old dog – and how to enjoy the experience too!
1 – Older dogs need less exercise
We are always hearing about the importance of regular exercise for our dogs. It’s true – young, fit and able dogs need a lot of exercise. But when a dog gets older, and when grey hairs start to show, they don’t need as much exercise as they used to need.
Watch your older dog carefully. If she seems keen to keep walking, then keep going. But if she seems to tire out earlier than she used to, don’t push her further. Let her be the one to decide when the daily walk is enough.
You could try taking her for several shorter walks per day, instead of one or two longer walks. She may prefer it that way, and of course, she will still get all the exercise she needs. Always try to judge what she wants, and let that be your guide.
2 – Change her eating routine
Older dogs don’t have the same nutritional needs that younger dogs do. Consider changing to a senior dog diet when she reaches the age of eight or nine. A senior diet will be lower in calories to suit her changing needs.
Also, if you have been in the habit of giving your dog regular treats, or food scraps, you should perhaps cut back on that. Don’t leave your dog hungry, of course – just remember that she doesn’t need quite as many calories as she used to.
Observe her eating habits. If she tends to leave certain foods uneaten that she used to gobble up immediately, that is a sign of her changing needs. Adjust accordingly. Of course, it could also be a sign of something else to be concerned about, which leads us on to the next point.
3 – Give your dog a health check-up at least once a year
At around the age of eight years it’s a good idea to have your dog checked by your local vet at least once a year. The vet will check on all your dog’s basic body functions to ensure all is well, and advise you if not.
Remember, you know your dog a lot better than your vet does. You should carefully observe your dog on a daily basis, looking for things like, shortness of breath, unusual tiredness, bathroom habit changes, and regular stomach upsets.
It is likely that old age will come slowly on your dog. The changes will be gradual, and may hardly be noticed if you don’t actively look for them. Of course, any sudden changes should be noted too, and if you are really concerned, take her to the vet immediately!
4 – Watch your dog’s weight
Your dog should not be overweight at any age, but when she is older, carrying extra weight can be dangerous to her health. For a start, a dog who carries extra weight is much more susceptible to joint problems.
Older dogs may already be having problems with things like arthritis, and carrying a lot of unnecessary weight will only make things worse. Old joints are not as resilient as young ones. Having to bear excessive weight will cause rapid deterioration in old joints.
You should check with your vet if you intend putting an old dog on a slimming diet. This is something you should do carefully, using the right kind of dog food, of course. Foods marked as suitable for senior dogs may, or may not, be suitable for your dog.
The problem lies in the law, which doesn’t really define what senior dogs should be given to eat in commercial dog food. There are laws governing what should be fed to puppies in commercial dog food, but not to seniors.
This is why a chat with your vet on what you should feed her is very important. However, don’t stress on it too much. Common sense usually finds a way that works!
5 – Watch for signs of deterioration in seeing and hearing
Just like old people, dogs can also find themselves seeing and hearing less perfectly than when they were young. If your dog seems to be ignoring you when you speak to her, it may be because she simply doesn’t hear you properly.
One way of overcoming the problem of a dog that is deaf to some extent is to use hand signals. In fact, it is a good idea to teach your dog hand signals when she is young. Then, when old age causes her to lose some of her hearing, you can still communicate with her through appropriate hand signals.
Problems with sight may become evident if your dog starts acting clumsy and bumping into things. It could be that she doesn’t see things as well as she used to. If this happens, your dog is likely to be confused and easily startled. Have patience with her, and help her as much as you can.
6 – Dogs get dementia too…
Yes, just like humans, dogs can get dementia as well. Watch out for your old dog becoming disoriented, not being sure of where she is, or what she intended to do. She may be more restless than usual. She may circle the area where she stands, or circle around the perimeter of the room with no apparent clear intention.
Dementia in dogs can be very stressful for both the dog and the owners. This is a time when you need to display patience and understanding. It won’t be easy, but it’s certainly possible to do. There may be times when your dog appears to have no idea who you are, for example. That won’t be easy to deal with, but showing her love and understanding is important.
If your old dog is also partially blind and has hearing loss, dementia will appear all the worse and will be much more difficult to cope with. Getting angry with your dog when she makes a mistake will only make things worse. It won’t be easy, but this is when she needs you most. This is when you have to be the best friend possible for your most loyal friend of all.
7 – Treat your old dog as you would treat an old relative
An old animal of any species needs special consideration. For example, they will be less able to fight off infection and illness, so try to keep them warm and dry in winter, and properly fed. They will, of course, need a warm and comfortable place to sleep. Make sure they get all the sleep they want as well.
An old dog can continue to have a good quality of life right up to the end with proper care and attention. It was no doubt a lot of fun getting that puppy all those years ago, but now is the time she really needs your attention. You owe her that at least, and she will love you all the more for it too. Knowing how to cope with an old dog really is easier than you thought!
If you are worried that your old dog may be dying, but you’re not sure, check out our article entitled, “10 Unique Revealing Danger Signs That Your Dog Is Dying”.