Its’ hard watching your faithful companion age; especially when he can no longer enjoy the simple things that he use to. Simple things like jumping onto the bed or hunting lizards in the backyard will only become more difficult, especially if arthritis is present. Here is a continuation of the list of things you may need to look out for as your dog ages, and ways to make him more comfortable in his senior years.
Confusion and forgetfulness- As a dog ages his mental processing slows. Because more dogs are living to be older there are more dogs showing signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), which is a canine type of Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs get lost more easily on walks, forget their toilet training, or even forget who they are and where they are. Be sure your senior pet has current and correct ID tags, and consider getting him micro-chipped (if he isn’t already).
Loss of hearing- If you haven’t already done so, train your dog using hand signals as well as verbal commands. That way when his hearing goes he will still be able to understand you.
Stress from change- Older dogs become more easily stressed from change. Try to give your senior dog a daily routine that you can stick to.
Mya Crane of Riverside has a fourteen year old beagle named Charlie who does not handle change well. “Having Charlie reach his senior years while in my early twenties has not been easy on him. Being a renter, I have had to move every year. One of the last times we moved Charlie was so upset that he refused to get out of the car at our new place.”
Loss of balance/footing- It’s harder for senior dogs to get up and down and keep their balance. Placing rugs on hard flooring will help him keep his footing, especially at the landing of stairs.
Raise food bowls- If your dog has to stoop to eat his food you may consider raising his food bowl so he doesn’t put extra strain on his body.
Watch weight- Too much food and too little food can make a big difference in your senior dog’s life. Just like humans, a dog’s metabolism slows down as they get older and they are much less active. If you don’t watch how much your dog is eating he may pack on the pounds quickly. Too much weight will only put greater stress on the heart, joints, and organs. On the flip side, if your dog is not eating enough he will look like a skeleton in no time. Dogs may stop eating if they are in too much pain to chew, reach their food, or go potty.
Vet bills- Allow for increases in your vet bills, even if you have insurance. Insurance premiums increase as a dog ages and they usually only pay a percentage of the bill. Even if your dog is not experiencing any medical issues, you should still take him for more regular check-ups than just twice a year. This is a time when a small issue can quickly become a big issue, so prevention is key.Watching your furry family member come to the end of his life is not easy, in fact, it’s heart breaking. Making him more comfortable in his senior years will make life easier on both of you. In addition to giving him physical comforts, knowing your dog and his habits will help you notice changes as they occur. This will also help you catch issues before they become major problems. Ask your veterinarian for the best diet and exercise plan for your senior dog. Every dog has unique needs, and your veterinarian should be able to tell you what to specifically look out for as your dog ages as well as the best care plan for him. And while it is hard to watch someone you love become less capable of caring for themselves try to remember that dogs live in the moment. Instead of focusing on the bad, try focusing on making his last years the best years.