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Caring for a senior dog

- Posted by in Pet Care
Caring for a senior dog

Caring for your senior dog...

Just like us, dogs age and undergo change, however this occurs in dogs much earlier. For dog lovers alike this is a difficult reality, yet the good news is it can be simply managed by careful observation and by better understanding the lifestyle, nutrition, exercise and veterinary needs of your ageing companion.

By recognising how your dog’s needs have changed, you ensure his capacity to lead a fulfilled and healthy life is never compromised. Maturity is just another stage of development and although ageing usually brings some degree of detriment, there are ways to manage its effect for the comfort and longevity of your dog. Learning about the ‘golden years’ early will help you to identify changes when they occur, so you can distinguish what is normal from what is a cause for concern.

When identifying changes, it is useful to remember that most age-related problems suffered by humans are also suffered by dogs, with common ailments such as failing eyesight, hearing loss and loss of appetite, being prevalent amongst senior dogs. Other changes to look out for include changed, disrupted or extended sleep patterns, reduced interest in exercise or play, limited movement or movement that appears awkward, changes in feeding, and disorientation.

As a dog ages, simple matters of house training become more problematic and it is not uncommon for a senior dog to have less control over when and where he goes to the toilet. Being prepared for this will make the ageing process much more manageable for both you and your dog. Similarly, as your dog gets older he may struggle navigating the home, being unable to reach his favourite seat or access areas he once found with great ease, so it is important to bear this in mind, particularly if your dog is unsupervised for periods of the day.

Disposable pads for toilet training and avoiding accidents in the home.

Ramps and steps for accessing the boot of the car, the sofa and anywhere else your ageing dog wants to go.

Whilst loss of sight and mobility problems are unwelcome changes, they are likely to appear in all mature dogs to some extent. Cataracts and osteoarthritis are severe cases that will require veterinary treatment. More serious age-related ailments include organ disease, which may necessitate medical management or a lifestyle change. Bronchitis or lung disease, for instance, could be mistaken for a regular cough, although it is much more easily contracted in senior dogs.

Additionally, it is important to observe good dental practices and care, as gum disease will discourage your dog from eating, something which can lead to unhealthy weight loss. On the other hand, over-feeding your dog or maintaining the same diet it enjoyed in its adult years can lead to weight gain, as the metabolism slows as the body ages. A specially tailored senior diet is beneficial for the weight and internal health of your dog, with older dogs requiring a different balance of nutrients. A bit like us requiring more supplements as we age, and burning fewer carbohydrates.

Oral hygiene gel that can be used as a toothpaste or added to food.

Dental chews for a tasty, beneficial snack.

Dental toys for enjoyment and teeth strengthening.

Toothbrushes for maintaining oral health and hygiene.

Senior dog foods for the internal nourishment of ageing canines.

Exercise is another factor to consider in caring for your senior dog. Intense exercise will tire your dog quickly and may place pressure on inflamed or already tired joints. A variety of supplements and pain-relief medication can be obtained to manage these symptoms, although it is just as important to adapt your lifestyle and routines around the needs of your canine. Dogs with hearing loss may benefit from the use of hand signals rather than verbal instructions, a change which can be developed gradually.

Providing a warm space for sleep and relaxation will further enhance life quality, as senior dogs are less able to regulate and maintain their body temperature. This makes them more susceptible to heat stroke on warm days and pneumonia in the colder seasons. Also, a comfy sleeping space is great for the tired or arthritic dog, just as it would be for us after a long day at work!

Dog bedding for all dogs alike.

Ageing is a completely natural process and it needn’t be stressful. By understanding how your dog’s needs have changed, just as they did moving from puppyhood to adulthood, and modifying aspects of diet, exercise and care, you can reinforce and maximise health, whilst maintaining a good standard of living whatever your dog’s age, requirements, and personality.

Do you have any further suggestions on caring for a senior dog? Please share them with us! Feel free to contact me directly with any questions: [email protected]

Written by: Hannah Dyball


18th Sep 2013
Customer Since: April 2011
From: Essex, United Kingdom

A very good article. Although I knew most of the information, it was good to see it in black and white.

23rd Sep 2013
Customer Since: November 2011
From: Somerset, United Kingdom

Thank you, again most of it seems common sense but it doesn't hurt to be reminded.

23rd Sep 2013

I have a 14 yr old Toby dog, he has sight loss, cataracts, hearing loss, has no pancreas and diabetic. He has regular check up at the pdsa, he has a very low fat diet which I have designed around him. He had given me 14yrs of companionship so I will look after him in his elder years.

13th Jan 2015
Customer Since: September 2010
From: United Kingdom

My Dog Ruby is a cavalier King Charles and is 9 years old I have noticed recently she is sleeping slot and her sleep pattern at night she wakes me up during the night she doesn't want to walk much but I worry about her weight control is it because she's getting older

13th Jan 2015
Customer Since: March 2013
From: West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Our 14 year old "rescue Beardie" came to us 2 years ago with undiagnosed Cushings disease, needing 20 teeth removing and having difficulty walking. She now loves twice daily walks, and is an absolute joy inspite of being completely deaf and having cataracts.The right medication, nourishing food, the right amount of gentle exercise, comfy beds and lots of love and the absence of stress have resulted in a quality of life that she really enjoys.

13th Jan 2015

I have a 10.5 year old Staffie which I have adopted, I noticed that she was stiff after exercise so have stated her on a course Yomove which contains glucosamine, chronidontin and green lipped muscle. I used the glucosamine and chronadontin many years ago on a boarder collie that I had and after 6 weeks there was a tremendous improvement. I highly recommend this for all dogs showing any kind of stiffness in their joints.

13th Jan 2015

Our Border Collie Raff has just enjoyed his 19th Christmas! He has lost most of his hearing but still enjoys two good walks a day with our young collie and playing ball on the beach. He loves his food and treats. We give him Vivitonin tablets and Yumove. He is a fantastic dog and deserves all the adjustments to our lives that an older dog needs

1st Jun 2015

I have an elderly westie who suffers severe exzema and is continually scratching her back can you recommend any creams etc.appeared to have tried most but to no avail

1st Jun 2015

I have a westie who is now 16 and a half. He is deaf and blind in one eye. He seems a different dog first thing in the morning when he runs around and races up the stairs asking for his breakfast and his walk. It's like his batteries run low in the evening when he just sleeps and I have to carry him outside for his last wee before bedtime. Back to his old self by the morning though and long may it continue. My vet prescribed Activate a couple of years ago but I now get it from Viovet as it's so much cheaper.

2nd Jun 2015

DEREK RAE - Please try aromesse dermacton products - you can google for them online. Been using the soap for 8 years now and recommended it to many people who have all had great results. Some have been able to take their dogs off steroids - its not expensive and its guaranteed. Do try it, doesnt cure but controls the itching

5th Jun 2015
Customer Since: May 2015
From: Staffordshire, United Kingdom

I have a 13 yr old boarder Collie who unfortunately has been in heart failure for 12mth. She also has an enlarged heart resulting in pulmonary hypertension. In Feb this year she was collapsing having seizures Arrythmia
She was referred to a brilliant veterinary cardiologist who found her heart was going down to 25bpm instead of 90bpm.
With now on the correct medication she is absolutely fantastic,
Yes she can't play or go for walks or even climb the stairs. But she enjoys walking around the garden and playing with the cat
She costs both me and the insurance company an absolute fortune- but I love her to bits

19th Sep 2017
Customer Since: March 2010
From: Surrey, United Kingdom

I have a 10yr old lab who has both hips displeased and a displaces front elbow. Operations are not an option according to the superset noel who we saw earlier in the year but recommended yumove and high cod liver oil. She has improved a bit and enjoys short walks. Sometimes she is like a puppy chasing our other dog in the garden and other days cant hardly move. We take each day as it comes as otherwise she is very healthy. Good info here but most of it is common sense but good to read.

22nd Sep 2017
Customer Since: August 2017
From: Suffolk , United Kingdom

I had, until 14wks ago, an amazing friend and much lived companion in the shape of 'Molly' a 22yr old jack Russell. Given to me at 14minths old, too boisterous for her original owners, one wk correct handling and I had the the joy if my life. She never looked old, never had arthritis partly thanks to good conformation, partly to healthy diet and exercise as well as preventative supplements. The night before she died she was up on the back of the sofa,as usual fox watching. Her nightly entertainment was fox families visiting our garden for food scraps. Molly wld go mad, running to the door,leaping back onto the sofa where she'd scream her head off in excitement. She had pancreatitis in her final 18months, managed with a low fat diet of daily poached beef,chicken and veg. I'm sure her long trouble free life was down to her bubbly personality,quirky little ways and enjoyment of life being dearly loved by all her family. She never had problems with hearing or eyesight,her vet put her down as age 9 in looks,not 22. Care for your friend, know them and importantly,at first signs of a problem,get them help. They'll reward you many times over in the joy they bring to your life. Molly passed away on 17th June this yr but shes In my daily thoughts, my heart and my tears, I'm so I glad I went to see that skinny unwanted young dog, shes given so much to us all.

24th Sep 2017

I adopted Willow from the dogs Trust in 2005 she was 4 1/2 months old and is now 12 She has 2 yumove tablets a day and anti inflammatories if she overdoes it usually chasing Squirrels! They seem to be doing the trick and she is still loving her walks. I have noticed she likes a quiet space, so we have moved her bed so she can go and get some peace. I have noticed she can get a bit grumpy, just like us really!! 😂

2nd May 2018

My GSD will be 11 at the end of this month, thankfully she shows no sign of stiffness when walking or moving around, she has been taking Joint Aid for dogs since puppyhood as I was very aware that GSD are prone to osteoarthritis. Having said that she is slowly loosing her commands and forgetting her manners at times, I suspect she's developing Alzheimer's but she's a family member and we'll love her and care for her till the end

11th Sep 2018
Customer Since: November 2017
From: Michigan, United States

My 15 year old kitty had arthritis and a mycating patella. Since I started him jn Adequan shots we have seen marked improvement. He stated with 2 shots per week for four weeks, now once a month. See your Vet. We also put Cosequin in his food. My fur dog is also getting Adequan shots for her senior dog and has also seen marked improvement.

11th Sep 2018
Customer Since: November 2017
From: Michigan, United States

Try Adequan shots for joints, arthritis etc., we saw a marked improvement.

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