It’s always important to take care of your dog’s needs, but it becomes especially important when you have a senior dog. As your pup ages, their needs will change significantly. You might need to modify their diet, for example, or you may have to limit distances on their daily walk.
How can you help your pup enjoy their golden years? Here’s some information on how to make sure your beloved companion stays as happy and healthy as possible, for as long as possible.
Stay in Tune With Your Pup
Your dog obviously can’t come up to you and say something’s wrong. So, it’s up to you to look for signs of trouble. Keep in mind, most dogs do a pretty good job of hiding any health issues they’re having. Be especially attentive if you’ve got a senior dog.
This is the time when you need to be extra vigilant about getting your pooch to the veterinarian for regular checkups. Your vet will start looking for age-related problems, such as intestinal issues, kidney and liver disease, diabetes, cancer, vision problems, and deafness. These checkups will become more important as your dog ages, just as they become more important for you as you get older.
You want to spend as much time with your beloved pet as you can. Regular trips to the vet can help ensure your senior dog will enjoy continued good health with maximum longevity. They will also make it possible for your vet detect an illness at its earliest stages, increasing the chances of successful treatment.
How a Wellness Checkup Usually Works
The usual check-up for a senior dog will include questions about your pet’s behavior. Your vet will want to know if you’ve noticed any changes, and they will check your pup for signs of pain, arthritis, or tumors. They’ll also look for any irregularities in your dog’s nose, ears, mouth, and eyes, and they’ll listen to the heart and lungs.
Regular check-ups may also include certain tests to check things such as blood pressure, urine quality, and thyroid, liver, and kidney function. The vet will likely take a stool sample and also check for heartworms.2
Your veterinarian may recommend several preventative measures, such as vaccinations, nutritional management, and parasite prevention. It’s important that you bring your senior dog in for a checkup at least twice a year, so your vet can monitor any trends.3
Things You Can Do Between Vet Visits
In between trips to the vet, keep a close watch on your senior dog. For example, check for any lumps on their body, and look for signs of weakness or incontinence (that’s when your pup can’t control its peeing or pooping). Make a note if your dog’s appetite or water intake changes, or if they exhibit uncharacteristic behavior, like aggression. Watch for weight fluctuations, and pay attention if your dog is vocalizing more than normal. These are potential signs of problems. If you have questions, ask your veterinarian.
There are a few other things you can do to help make sure your dog stays at peak health as he or she ages. For example, senior dogs obviously won’t be able to walk as often, or as vigorously, as they could when they were young. But it’s still important that you keep him or her as active as possible. Regular exercise will still be critical to your dog’s overall health – it will also help stave off obesity.
If you have a dog with a longer coat, you’ll need to check their skin regularly to make sure their fur isn’t hiding problems, such as cysts or tumors. Work with your veterinarian to monitor your pet’s skin closely. They can provide you with an outline — or map — of your dog’s body that will be marked with any known lumps.4 Check your pet on a regular basis to see if those lumps are changing, or if new ones are forming. Also, a dog’s teeth can easily accumulate tartar and plaque, both of which can cause health problems.5 Brush them regularly with canine toothpaste.
You also need to be keenly aware of any changes in your dog’s behavior or cognition. If you notice your dog standing in a corner, barking for seemingly no reason, or if they can’t find the food bowl, those are obvious signs of a cognitive problem. Unfortunately, there is a dog version of Alzheimer’s disease known as canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD.6
However, there could be other causes behind a dog’s cognitive difficulties. These include a brain tumor, diabetes, or a thyroid condition.7 In order to treat your dog’s problem, your vet will have to run tests so they can come up with the best plan of treatment.
If the vet does diagnose CCD, they may recommend that you include antioxidants such as vitamin E into your pet’s diet.8 Many vegetables and fruits contain this important vitamin. Certain medications may be able to help improve your dog’s memory and help them think more clearly.
While there are things that could potentially improve symptoms, there is no cure for CCD.9
As your beloved pet gets older, do what you can to keep them as comfortable as possible. Your dog might, for example, need help doing things that were once second nature. Put a set of small stairs near your bed, so your pup can get up there with you at night. Put some rugs down so your dog won’t slip on hardwood floors. Be prepared to give them a little extra boost to help get in and out of the car. If your dog loves going for car rides with you, but they’re too heavy to pick up, consider setting up a ramp that you can easily keep in your trunk.
One Last Thing
Dogs are beloved companions, and it’s sad that their time with us is so limited. It’s understandable to want to help your pup live as long as they can. And by taking them to the veterinarian on a regular basis for routine examinations, you’ll be going a long way toward keeping your dog in the best health possible.
Just as important as watching a senior dog’s health is to cherish all of the moments you have left with your incredible dog. Take the time to give your pup lots of love, take them out for walks and rides, and appreciate every minute you have together.