Caring for your Ageing Dog
James is a 4th year Veterinary student studying at Harper & Keele University. Here, he has shared some insight and advice on caring for your elderly dog!
With both owner and veterinary care and knowledge increasing, so is the life span of our beloved pets. As in humans, elderly dogs bring with them requirements and challenges very different to that of their younger selves. As such, we will be talking about some things you can do as an owner to help your elderly pooch live out their golden years in the best way they can! Check out my dog, Logan, the 12 year old malamute.
What changes might I see in my ageing dog?
The first thing many owners will notice with an ageing pooch are physical changes:
- A more ‘unkept’ appearance
- Muscle loss (especially around the legs)
- Urinating and defecating within the house
- Bad breath
- Grey hairs (particularly in darker coat dogs)
Secondary to these physical changes, you may also notice behavioural changes:
- Reluctance to play/go for walks,
- Slower on walks
- ‘Wall staring’
- Ignoring commands
- Aimless wandering around the house
Some individuals can appear disorientated and irritable. This may also manifest the occasional bout of aggression, something you may want to consider in your household and plan accordingly.
Some things you can do
Changes can be made around the house to better accommodate your pet:
- A memory foam bed (or similar) designed with older dogs in mind to aid joint pain.
- Steps or ramps onto sofas etc, along with carpeted floors and sturdy rugs to assist navigation within the house.
- Minimising change within the house (like moving furniture) to help reduce disorientation and confusion that may be experienced due to cognitive decline.
With regards to your actual pet, you may need to start helping them with some of their daily maintenance:
- Assist in grooming (either by yourself or with regularly scheduled appointments with a groomer):
- Brushing your dogs coat and bathing them on a regular basis (due to decreased self-grooming).
- Ensure claws are clipped (especially the dew claw) as natural wear will be decreased due to the decreased activity.
- Dental care
- Teeth brushing can bring great benefit if your pet will let you! (start by using just your finger before progressing to a doggy toothbrush over time, to allow them to acclimatize to the new sensation)
- The use of senior dog dry food (possibly even dental specific dry food as per a vets recommendation) can aid due to the increased supplementation (aiding against cognitive decline) but also the ‘crunching’ of the food, helping to crack off tartar and plaque.
- As with all Petcare, talk to your vet for further advice. More severe cases of dental disease may require veterinary intervention, which is better done earlier rather than later in the case of aged dogs.
How your vet can help
More regular health checks of your pet can truly aid in their management in their senior years. Regular vet checks will help your pet by checking for problems and managing ongoing problems and pain. The use of librela (check out our blog on cold chain packaging here) has increased in recent years, showing significant success in the management of pain due to osteoarthritis.
Individual responses to librela vary, but some dogs can experience improvement within 7 days! (1) With research showing improvement of clinical signs in over 40% of patients. (2)
If you have any concerns about your ageing pooch, always check with your vet, regular health checks can be essential in picking up any underlying problems that may be occurring and help keep your pet happy in their golden years!
Thank you, James, for this advice for our pet parents!