How to Give Your Senior Dog Their Best Years Yet
This article was written by Pet Community Center Board of Directors member and Marketing Committee Volunteer, Leanne Gossels. You can learn more about the author at the end of the post.
The puppy years are full of fun and frustration as our dogs learn their roles in our lives and begin to mind their manners. Then we get to enjoy the relative peace and quiet of having an adult dog. But the adult years aren’t all the same. As dogs continue to age, they go through more life stages that can be as disruptive to them and their families as the puppy years. Caring for a senior dog brings its own set of challenges, but with some preparation and minor lifestyle adjustments it’s possible to help our pups live out their golden years in comfort.
Monitor your pet for signs of aging.
The exact age at which a dog becomes a senior depends on breed and size, so it is important to monitor your dog for signs of aging as an individual. Look for symptoms of hearing or sight loss, mental deterioration/confusion, and increased anxiety as your pet gets older. Oftentimes, these symptoms manifest as behavior change. Pay attention to what your pet’s new misbehaviors or odd actions might be trying to convey and work with your vet to come up with a plan to address any results of the aging process.
Adjust your dog’s schedule.
Older dogs will need to go out more often. Make arrangements to get your pet outside on a more frequent schedule to be sure they can comfortably “hold it” during the times they’re inside.
Find activities that are right for your dog.
Senior dogs still need to stay active but may not be able to exercise for as long as they did before. They may need to take shorter walks or switch from high-intensity sports to those that emphasize slower paces. To keep your pet engaged, give add mental games, toys, and activities to their routine to burn off some of that extra energy and keep their minds sharp.
Develop a diet for sustained health.
Work with your veterinarian to find a food that will keep your pet in peak health. Oftentimes, older dogs need senior-specific food or may even need a prescription diet due to health concerns. Your vet may also recommend supplements such as those for joint or brain health.
Make your home accessible.
Older pets often develop mobility difficulties. Adding rugs over slippery floors, putting steps beside a bed or couch, and making sure pets have a supportive and soft place they can easily lie can make all the difference in keeping your pet cozy and comfy while reducing their risk of injury.
Educate and prepare yourself and your family about senior dogs.
Much like caring for puppies, the additional needs senior dogs develop can require some extra patience, time, and energy. Knowing what to expect and preparing everyone in your household to handle any new needs (or the occasional puddle on the floor) with compassion can make all the difference for your pet.
It is hard to watch our pets age, but with the right lifestyle modifications for them and a strong support system for ourselves, it is possible to give our dogs active, comfortable, and loving senior years.
About the Author: Leanne Gossels
Leanne Gossels is a management consultant with a focus on business transformation. In both her career and volunteer pursuits, she emphasizes the importance of people (and in the case of PCC, by extension, their pets.)
Leanne has an ever-evolving collection of animals, including a horse, pony, dog, and of course, Bobo. Her vices are messy kitchens, feeding strays, and getting lost in the woods.