Five Tips on How to Care for a Senior Dog
By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President
If you ask me, there’s almost nothing more wonderful than a senior dog. Their grey muzzles. Their steadfast loyalty. Their gentle spirits.
They have a way of making us slow down and appreciate life. After all, it’s impossible to be in a hurry when you’re walking an old dog who takes his sweet time sniffing every inch of the block.
For those of you lucky enough to share your home with a senior pooch, help keep him healthy and happy with these simple tips.
Watch His Weight
As dogs age, it’s not uncommon for them to either lose or gain weight due to a variety of normal physical changes. Maintaining a healthy weight will keep him feeling great and reduce stress on his joints, muscles and heart. To achieve this, it may be necessary to adjust the amount and quality of food and treats he receives each day. Talk to your vet about the safest, most effective way to do this.
Keep in mind, though, that a sudden increase or decrease in weight is often the first sign of an underlying health problem. For example, weight gain can indicate an underactive thyroid while weight loss may signal diabetes or kidney disease. Make an appointment with your vet if you notice any rapid weight changes.
Get Regular Checkups
Senior pets are typically more prone to illness, injury and disease than their younger counterparts. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, some of the most common problems in aging animals are liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, diabetes and joint/bone disease.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to take him for regular veterinary visits. In fact, as your pet ages, you might consider visiting twice a year instead of just once. Since senior pet exams and blood work are generally more in depth, they will help with early detection and treatment of health issues.
Monitor Him Between Visits
As an observant pet parent, you are your dog’s first and best line of defense. In addition to watching his weight, make note of any sudden or gradual changes in behavior or appearance. Once a week, give him a full-body massage. Not only will your pup enjoy it, you’ll be able to catch any new lumps, bumps or swelling that may arise.
If your dog has a Voyce Health Monitor, you can track trends for vital signs like respiratory rate and resting heart rate through the interactive Wellness Management Center. In addition, keep an eye on your dog’s activity level and quality of rest, as a change in either of these can indicate pain or discomfort. Report any areas of concern to your veterinarian.
Keep Him Active Physically
While your senior dog may no longer be able to join you for a five-mile run, exercise is still important to keep his bones strong, his muscles toned and his heart healthy. Walking, swimming and games of fetch are all good choices. However, tailor activities to your dog’s age and physical condition.
If your dog is unable to exercise, is limping or walking stiff-legged or hunched over, this may be a sign of painful bone or joint disease. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss treatment options.
Stimulate His Mind
Just as with some humans, some dogs can experience cognitive decline as they age. Signs and symptoms include confusion, pacing, becoming lost in familiar places, becoming “trapped” behind furniture, lethargy and depression. While there’s no cure for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), there are things you can do to keep your dog’s mind active and engaged.
Working with your dog on simple commands (sit, down, stay, etc.) can help lift his spirits and boost his confidence. Interactive games like food or toy puzzles encourage problem solving and may increase brain activity. Even a brief play session or walk around the neighborhood helps stimulate his mind.
I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions that you’d like me to answer on the blog concerning health, wellness or behavior, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.