If you are anything like us, you love your old dog or cat and have probably built an incredible bond with your favorite companion over the years. We are here to help you take care of your old pet. We are a team of veterinarians and pet experts who provide expert advice about senior pet care.
Caring for Senior Dogs
More dogs are reaching ‘senior-citizen’ status every year. This is down to ongoing advances in veterinary care and pet nutrition, plus the love and money we lavish on them. This is great news for them, and for us, because it means we get to enjoy more years with our furry best friend. But age can also bring a whole slew of changes and challenges for everyone.
And of course, there are so many great things to celebrate about our older dogs. They can be loving, patient, loyal, goofy, funny, sweet, tolerant, empathetic. Fido understands your moods, routine, emotions – and you understand his. It’s pure and unconditional love at it’s very best.
Are you sharing your life with an older dog? Me too! I’d love to help you ensure that your dog’s golden years are the very best they can be, after all he/she deserves to enjoy every minute of them right?
Most Common Issues with Senior Dogs
Getting older can slow Fido down, bring niggling aches & pains, or even serious or chronic diseases.
Here are just a few of the most common senior dog health problems:
- Arthritis: Arthritis in older dogs is a very common problem, in fact research indicates that approximately 60% of dogs over the age of seven are likely to develop arthritic symptoms as they continue to age. Usually presents as stiffness and mobility issues and can lead to a reluctance to exercise and a reduction in muscle mass. If you’ve noticed your dog slowing down or being reluctant to carry out activities that were once a walk in the park, they may have osteoarthritis. You can help alleviate the symptoms by ensuring your dog isn’t overweight, performing exercise little and often and adding joint supplements to their diet.
- Heart Disease: Generally, a slowly progressing disease, dogs with cardiac disease often initially become more lethargic and reluctant to exercise but later can develop serious breathing difficulties and a cough as a result of heart failure. Often, but not always, your dog may have a heart murmur than can be detected by your vet. After heart scans and X-rays your dog may be prescribed medication to help.
- Diabetes: A hormonal disease that occurs because of insulin resistance – an essential hormone involved in regulating blood sugar levels. Common symptoms of diabetes include an increase in thirst and urination, weight loss, increased appetite, and lethargy to name a few. If left untreated diabetes can develop into a life-threatening condition known as ketoacidosis.
- Incontinence: If dribbling urine around the house or a loss of control of your dog’s bowels sounds familiar then they may have incontinence issues. There are many causes of incontinence, some of which are curable and others require more management changes on the part of the owner such as the use of incontinence products. You can also read our related articles: Why is my old dog peeing in the house? and Why is my old dog pooping in the house?
- Cognitive dysfunction: ‘Doggy Dementia’ is a commonly reported occurrence and usually results in confusion, memory loss and staring into space. While not curable, some medications may help slow the progress of canine cognitive dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the brain.
- Hearing and/or vision problems: Hearing loss due to old age is not treatable, however, if you have noticed a change in hearing then it is recommended to have your veterinarian screen for ear-canal inflammation or excessive discharge. There are many causes of reduced vision in elderly dogs, including cataracts, glaucoma and retinal degeneration. If you’ve noticed your dog is less aware of their surroundings and frequently bumps into objects then take them to your local vet for an ophthalmic examination.
Behavior Changes In Old Dogs
If you notice changes in your senior dog’s barking, you can review our latest articles including:
- Does your old or senior dog no longer bark?
- Does your old dog bark in the middle of the night?
- Did your old start star barking all of a sudden for no apparent reason?
If your old dog’s behavior has turned into a Jekyll-and-Hyde impersonation, it’s important to find out what’s causing the problem.
Best Products For Older Dogs
All pets need ‘stuff’… sometimes a lot of stuff, and older dogs are no exception.
There are tons of products that can make Fido’s life easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable.
We’ll take a look at the best, and newest ones, here.
How can I make my old dog more comfortable?
Diet, medication and simple changes in the household environment can have a massive impact on how dramatically your dog feels the effects of getting older. The earlier these changes are implemented, the more comfortable your dog’s transition into retirement will be. This article will provide owners with some simple tips for caring for an elderly pooch and will bring to light the warning signs of serious disease to look out for.
Old dog proof your house: Arthritis and mobility issues are among the most common complaints owners have as their dog gets older. Stiffness first thing in the morning, muscle weakness and a reluctance to jump are just a few of the symptoms of aging joints. The household furnishings that once served as a playground for your younger dog may now seem more like an unnecessary obstacle course. Consider moving your dog’s bed and feeding bowl close together to limit the distance they need to travel for the essentials, and you might even want to block off the stairs to deter them from overexerting themselves. Elderly dogs also have a tendency to become more easily confused so the fewer objects they have to navigate around the better.
The goal is to reduce the risk of injury and increase comfort levels while still allowing your dog to maintain independence. Comfy beds, elevated feeding bowls and incontinence products are some of the essentials here. Dog ramps are fantastic for helping them get in and out of the boot of the car, steps to get to their favourite spot on the couch and grip pads on slippery surfaces can all hugely improve their quality of life.
Watch for hot and cold temperatures: As dogs age their metabolism slows down and generally isn’t as quick to respond to changes in their external environment as it once was. They are much more prone to feel the effects of extreme hot and cold so be sure to take extra precautions to keep them within their optimal temperature range. Protect against heat stroke by always taking plenty of water, icepacks and don’t stay out in the sun for too long with your elderly dog. Similarly, hypothermia is a threat in low temperature conditions so it would be wise to provide a doggy jacket in areas of colder climate.
Moderate exercise for old dogs: Your elderly dog may not be as athletic as they once were; heart and lung function deteriorate over time and while it’s important for your dog to stay active, you must be aware not to overdo it. Rather than long periods of exercise, the senior dog will prefer shorter periods of moderate exercise more frequently. What does ‘moderate’ exercise actually mean? No matter what ‘issues’ he has, there are exercise options and games that your senior dog will be able to enjoy.
Senior dog fun: Senior dogs also want to have fun. View our selection of the best senior dog toys.
What is the best way to care for my old dog?
As a dog’s years increase in number so too do the risks of certain diseases. While many common conditions are largely determined by genetics that doesn’t always mean that they’re not treatable. Here are some of the ways that you can slow down or even prevent many senior dog illnesses:
Give your dog a balanced diet: A balanced diet is important to maintain good health with senior dogs. As dogs become older, they tend to be less active and so their ‘Resting Energy Requirements (RER)’ decreases (the number of calories they require). Learn more about food for old dogs.
Establish a baseline profile: While you may think your middle-aged dog is in great health right now, gauging an idea of their baseline health can prove to be very useful down the road when your vet needs to esablish a diagnosis. Have your veterinarian perform a full exam and do basic blood work to establish this baseline profile now.
Make vet visits an annual routine: In addition to keeping your dog’s vaccinations up to date, regular vet visits will allow your local veterinarian to perform a thorough examination to pick up on any changes that occur year to year.
Monitor for changes: Keeping track of your dog’s weight and monitoring basic habits such as the amount of water they drink or volume of urine they produce allows for changes to be detected early on.
Screen for early intervention: In addition to monitoring your dog’s habits and regular vet visits, owners can perform a basic examination of their dog themselves on a frequent basis. Pay particular attention to your dog’s skin; thick fur can hide cysts and tumours. See our page with pictures of common dog skin problems.
Learn more about these tips by viewing our top tips to care for an older dog.
Training, Exercise, Travel & More
Older dogs sometimes forget stuff they used to know. Deteriorating eyesight and/or hearing might make it seem as if Fido is ignoring you. Creaky joints, circulatory problems, carrying too much weight and a host of other health issues can make it more difficult for him to obey commands, maintain good potty habits and so on.
But there are lots of ways to overcome any, or all, of these problems.
Sometimes it’s just a case of extra obedience practice, other times you need some new ‘tools’ or tips to help matters along.
Oh, and by the way…. It’s NOT true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Fido is still perfectly capable of learning new stuff, you may just need to go more slowly and be patient. He’ll get there!
Some dogs sail through life without slowing down much at all.
Others have health problems that make it more difficult to run, jump and play.
But whichever group your older dog falls into, he still needs daily exercise to keep his body and mind healthy.
No matter what ‘issues’ he has, there are exercise options and games that your senior will be able to enjoy.
Regular outings also help make sure that Fido doesn’t lose his social skills, or get overly anxious when he’s away from home.
Just like older people, dogs can sometimes withdraw from interacting with others, or become too dependent on their familiar home environment – which leads to anxiety as well as physical and emotional deterioration.
What are the signs of a dog dying of old age?
Although a rare occurrence, sometimes dogs do die naturally of old age. The availability of performing the humane euthanasia of animals thankfully prevents many dogs with chronic diseases from dying as a result of the disease; being able to put an animal to sleep while they still have some dignity is a blessing. However, on occasion, a dog will very slowly deteriorate over time and may peacefully pass away while asleep. For many owners, this would be the ideal ending to their beloved companion’s life but a dog that is suffering or in pain should never be kept alive just for the hopes of a natural death. If you are the owner of a senior dog it can be useful to know what kind of signs to look out for that might indicate your dog is dying of old age – these are the most common:
- A loss of interest in games or activities that they once enjoyed
- Loss of appetite and/or thirst
- Incoordination and confusion
- Regular vomiting or diarrhoea
- Difficulty breathing or gasping for air
- General lethargy and depression
- Extreme weight loss
As with all of us, life will eventually come to an end and the same is true of our pets. We have resources to help you: read our article about putting your dog to sleep, or the cost of putting a dog to sleep. While it is a hard time for any family to go through, it is an important part of life and an opportunity to celebrate all of the special memories you have of your dog.
Share your experience
Right now we share our home with our very own senior tail-wagger, Bonnie, who is thirteen years old.
Luckily she’s not the first elderly dog I’ve been blessed with, and I’m grateful that I know what she needs to be happy, healthy and comfortable.
My goal is to give you the same peace of mind.
But this website isn’t a one-way street 🙂
As well as providing all the resources and help you need, as this site grows I’d love for you to share your photos, stories, worries, joys, thoughts and more.
I’d like to build a community where we can share everything that makes life with a senior dog so special and rewarding, and help each other along the way.
Welcome, come on in and thanks for visiting!