5 Ways to Maintain Your Senior Dog’s Quality of Life
We all remember that time when we first brought our dog home! A cute ball of energy, full of mischief, curiously exploring the world, chewing everything and bouncing up and down with excitement at the prospect of going for a walk. As our dogs gets older, though, this changes and they are ready to go home sooner from their walks, they might be gaining some weight and have more aches and pains than before. That’s because dogs, like us humans, slow down and become frailer as they reach their senior years. How can we make this phase of our sweet dogs’ lives more comfortable? Here are 5 helpful changes to make when your dog gets older:
1. Go to the vet more often
It’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s health and go for more regular check-ups at the vet as they get older. Small dogs are considered “senior citizens” at around 11-12 years of age. Medium- and larger-sized dogs a bit sooner – around 8-10 years old. Your vet visits could include lab testing and also having our dogs teeth checked out. Dogs often pick up dental issues as they get older and could use a good teeth cleaning every now and then.
2. Adjust your senior dog’s diet
As our dogs gradually slow down and become less active, their dietary needs change. Senior dogs need food that is easier to digest, has fewer calories and contains nutrients to help them age well. Weight gain is also a big concern for senior dogs, as it affects their quality of life, increases the risk of diseases and can shorten their lifespan. Switch to a senior dog food and also keep an eye on their weight. Spoil them with healthy treats, rather than unhealthy, high calorie snacks.
3. Tone down your dog’s exercise routine
As your pet’s age increases, his stamina and mobility will decrease, so he might struggle to keep up with the same level of activity as before. While a little exercise can go a long way to keep your furry friend feeling good, overexertion can cause extra stress or even injury. When exercising your older dog, stick to short sessions that won’t tire him out too quickly. Also senior dogs are much more sensitive to heat and cold than younger pups. So give your dog a sweater if it’s very cold outside and in summer, or try exercising him in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.
4. Help your pet sleep better at night
As your dog ages you should invest in his comfort with a softer, warmer bed. You can also consider an infrared light over his bed at night. Red light therapy has great benefits for pets and can provide a potent treatment for typical pet issues such as: joint and muscle pains, wounds and cuts, infections, inflammation and pain. Even if you can’t afford an expensive device, just a basic infra-red light bulb will already make a big difference.
5. Make some lifestyle changes
As our dogs age their senses are less sharp and they are less agile. There are many small changes we can make to make this less problematic. For example, install ramps and non-slip surfaces or rug markers for dogs with deteriorating eyesight. Also keep the furniture layout in your home the same, so your dog doesn’t become disorientated and hurt themselves bumping into things. To prepare for any potential hearing loss, you could teach your dog hand signals to go with spoken commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’, to ensure you can keep communing even when their hearing weakens. And always take the opportunity to spoil your beloved senior dog a little with extra grooming and TLC.
Making some of these changes will definitely make your dog more comfortable and allow him to age gracefully. You can maintain their quality of life and even potentially extend their lifespan with a bit of extra care. After all they are so worth all the fuss.
Worrying about the last years of your pet’s life can be stressful, especially thinking about how to deal with his passing away. If you would like more information about options we have available to ensure that he gets a dignified farewell, you are welcome to have a look at our Pet Farewell Plan to take the uncertainty out of the inevitable: https://care.earthpet.co.za