There eventually comes a time in the lives of many dog owners where they have to face the fact that their beloved canine companion isn’t as young as they used to be. Caring for senior dogs isn’t always as easy as it was when they were younger, either.
Dogs, like humans, have different needs as they age. As a dog parent, you obviously want what’s best for your furry friend, especially when they begin to slow down and show the signs of aging. No matter how far along in years a dog happens to be, most dog owners would agree that making sure their canine companion is well taken care of is the number one priority.
Below are five useful tips to ensure you’re making your senior dog as comfortable and happy in their old age as they can possibly be.
Senior Dog Care: How to Make an Older Dog Comfortable
It’s no surprise that taking care of a puppy is far different from caring for an adult dog. Similarly, adult dog care is different compared to senior dog care.
Think of your senior dog as you would an elderly person. Just like older humans, senior dogs need different types of care in order to feel comfortable and maintain a high quality of life. As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to protect and promote your dog’s well-being in all stages of their life.
If your dog is getting on in years, here are a few ways to provide the best care for him so he can continue to live a happy and comfortable life.
1. Visit Your Vet Regularly
Regular vet visits are important throughout your dog’s life, and when it comes to senior dog care, these visits become even more important. Just like older humans, senior dogs are more susceptible to different health problems.
Taking your senior dog for routine checkups helps ensure you catch any health issues that might arise. Just how often should senior dogs visit the vet? The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends senior dogs should go in for a checkup every six months as opposed to once a year.
2. Be Aware of Behavioral Changes
The way your dog behaves can tell you a lot about the state of their health. As your dog begins to age, it’s important to pay extra attention to any behavioral changes they might display.
Is he enjoying the same things as he used to? What are his sleep patterns like? Is he acting up in situations where he once behaved normally? Is your well-housebroken hound suddenly soiling the house?
Say you’ve been regularly taking your dog to work for years without any trouble, but now he’s started to act up while you’re at the office. This could mean something has shifted in your senior dog’s physical and mental health and is something to watch closely. It’s important to make note of any behavioral changes you notice in your aging dog and discuss them during your regular visits with your vet.
3. Continue to Ensure Your Dog Gets Regular Exercise
Exercise is vital for keeping dogs of any age happy and healthy. Exercise is crucial when it comes to senior dog care. While you and your dog might not be running on the beach or taking a steep hike through the woods like you did when he was young, it’s crucial for senior dogs to continue to get regular exercise.
You might want to get approval from your vet as to exactly what type of exercise he can handle. There are still plenty of ways to keep your aging dog active even if his activity looks a little different than before.
Think about different ways to play with his favorite toys. Even rolling a ball across the floor can get him up and moving a little. Take a trip to the dog park where he can enjoy the sunshine and be around other dogs. Go for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, no matter how slow you might have to go. These less strenuous activities can offer the exercise and mental stimulation that senior dogs need.
4. Make Accommodations to Make Their Life Easier
Wondering how to make an old dog as comfortable as can be? As your dog gets older, it’s likely he won’t be able to do some of the same physical activities he could when he was younger. As his owner, it’s your responsibility to make the accommodations that will make your senior pup’s life as easy as possible.
For example, you may have been taking your dog everywhere for years. As he gets older, you might notice he’s having trouble jumping into the car like he used to. Investing in a ramp that makes it easier for him to get in and out of the car so he can continue to enjoy the life he’s accustomed to could be a great idea. Making small changes to accommodate senior dogs can go a long way.
5. Shower Them With Love and Affection
Cuddle them, kiss them and love them just like you have been doing all along.
Senior dogs crave your attention and unconditional love just as much as, if not more than, younger dogs. Consider spoiling them with fun new toys and delicious dog treats. Spend more time with them and enjoy this special time in their new stage of life.
There’s nothing wrong with spoiling your dog, especially when he’s getting older. Consider adding bone broth to his food or engaging his brain by teaching him some new tricks (yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks). Treat your dog to a canine massage or make him as comfortable as possible with a new orthopedic bed.
When it comes to senior dogs, the more love and affection, the better––making an older dog happy and comfortable really comes down to how much love you give them.
Ensuring Senior Dogs Are Happy and Healthy
How old does a dog have to be to be considered part of the senior pack? Experts say it all depends on the dog. Large breeds typically age faster than smaller breeds of dogs. A Great Dane might be considered a senior by age six, while a Chihuahua most likely wouldn’t begin to fall into the category of senior dog until well past the age of 10. Diet, exercise, and environment are other factors that can contribute to the canine aging process.
While watching our dogs move into their senior years isn’t always easy, understanding how to make an old dog comfortable and happy can significantly improve the quality of their life.
The good news? The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that, because of improved medical care and dietary habits, pets are living longer than they ever have before. When senior dogs are well-loved and cared for, they can live a long, happy life.
It’s never too late to take the proper steps to care for senior dogs. Sure, their needs might change, but they still need you now more than ever. The best way to take care of your senior dog? Start by giving him your love and affection. Your aging canine will appreciate receiving the same loyalty and love he’s unconditionally given you for years.
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Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.