Caring for your elderly dog
Greying hairs around their nose, slower moving or softer steps are all physical indications that your dog is entering old age. You may also notice they find everyday activities more challenging than they used to, especially if their eyesight or hearing is in decline. They may also become anxious when there are changes to their daily routine and changes in the house.
Just like humans, older dogs have different needs and their lifestyle needs to be adjusted to fit these.
Common symptoms in older dogs include: disorientation and confusion, changes in how they interact with you and other animals in the home, change in their sleep pattern — they may not sleep well at night & pace around, soil indoors or become fussier with their food.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to help your dog cope with old age. Check out our top tips below:
1. Routine: keep to a daily routine with their meals, bedtime and walks — this helps your dog to predict what will happen next and is important for their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
2. Comfort: ensure they have a comfortable soft bed to sleep on at night, which will support any aching bones and joints. Position their bed somewhere nice and warm. Set up several spots around the house filled with cosy, fleecy blankets — this will ensure they always have a comfortable space to lie down on.
3. Separation anxiety: try not to leave your older dog alone for a long time. Older dogs are more likely to experience separation anxiety, even in dogs who were independent and easy-going in their youth. As their hearing and sight gets worse, they will rely on you more and more for information about their surroundings and may become panicked in your absence.
4. Regular exercise: your dog may be slowing down but that doesn’t mean they should spend their days curled up on the couch. Exercise is critical to keeping your dog healthy, both physically and mentally. Take your dog for shorter and more frequent walks and allow sniffing and exploration (this will help them to sleep at night). Short training or play sessions can help exercise their minds and help them concentrate.
5. Diet: make dietary changes to suit your older dog’s needs. Supplements and oils can be added to their food, which provide more nutrition to protect the brain and may help to slow brain ageing. Dogs tend to get fussier with age, so be prepared to experiment to find something they like. Make sure they’re still eating a healthy amount and that they’re enjoying what they eat. It can also help to feed them strong smelling foods and to warm up their food.
6. Vet: older dogs should see the vet twice a year, or as soon as they exhibit any unusual behaviour or signs of pain. Things to look out for: a change in weight, appetite, or water intake; incontinence or increased urination; bad breath and difficulty chewing; lumps that change size or shape; and slow, stiff movement.
7. Eyesight & hearing: your dog’s eyesight and hearing will fade as they get older and they will become more disoriented as a result. Avoid any sudden loud noises or movement when they’re relaxed or asleep. Try not to move furniture to places where they will bump into it. Leave a night light on so they can move around at night without the fear of falling or becoming confused.
8. Helpful products: there are many products on the market designed to aid an ageing dog. Raincoats can keep your dog dry and warm when out in wintery weather. Warm fleecy bedding spread around the house will ensure your dog never sleeps on a cold floor. If your dog has problems climbing in and out of the car, it may be worth investing in a ramp, so that they can walk into the car with ease. Plugging an Adaptil Diffuser into the rooms where your dog spends the most time can help older dogs cope with changes that they may have taken in their stride as younger dogs.
9. Teeth: dog’s teeth tend to get worse with age, so make sure they have soft food that’s easier to eat. Maintain their oral hygiene by brushing their teeth regularly and feeding them dental chews.
1o. Grooming: get them groomed and have their claws clipped regularly. Try to groom your dog at least once a week and use your fingers to feel all over him. Older dogs often have small lumps and bumps but watch them carefully. If they ooze fluid, grow quickly, or worry you in any way, speak to your vet.
Finally… be kind and patient with your dog as they get older. Despite any changes in their behaviour, you need to give them the same care and commitment that you always have. With the help of Adaptil and a few changes to their daily routine, you can improve the quality of your older dog’s life for many years to come.