1/11/2014

Taking Care of Your Older Dog

If your dog is getting gray on his or her muzzle and is over seven years old, you've got a senior canine in the house. Just like us, there are signs that age is creeping up on them.  Joints may be stiff, hearing and eyesight may decline. Older dogs may lose some of that keen sense of smell and not be as interested in their kibble.

A dog's lifespan is dependent on breed and size. Usually extra large dogs have a shorter time with us, such as Great Danes. The expected lifespan is 6-8 years for them. Other large breed dogs may live to age 10. The little guys, especially terriers may see 16 though, so be aware of what is typical for your breed.

Just as you paid special attention to that puppy, now is the time for a little extra care for your aging dog. Here are some ways to make sure your dog is enjoying his old age.

1.  Regular vet check ups and immunizations. Preventative care and early detection of problems are important, just as it is for us.

2.  Older dogs still need walks and play times. They may be a little more sedate, but they need exercise. So enjoy your calmer senior dog that may not yank your arm on the leash now. And throw the ball a few times if she still enjoys it.

3. A dog may start to pack on the pounds in the senior years, so pay attention to how much and what you're feeding. A senior formulated dog food may be just the thing, with lower fat and more fiber. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? There are also foods with glucosamine/chrondrotin already in them, which may help with joint issues. Our older Labrador hates supplements and medication-no matter what flavor, so food with these supplements already in it saves a lot of hassle. An overweight dog is unhealthy. It's more stress on the joints and heart. That also sounds familiar.

4.  Heat and cold may affect your dog more severely at this stage of life. If your dog is outside during the day, make sure there is shelter from sun and cold. During extreme cold temps - teens and below, all dogs should be kept inside. In extreme heat, plenty of water and a comfy, shaded shelter are necessary.

5. Pay attention to changes in habits. If your dog doesn't seem to hear commands, he may have some hearing loss. The same with eyesight. It's possible for dogs to get cataracts that will impair their vision, but a common occurrence is nuclear sclerosis which is a discoloration of the eye. Dental health is important. Incontinence and loss of bowel control should be reported to your vet. And dementia is possible. If in doubt, have your vet check it out.

6.  Senior dog accessories can make life more pleasant. Orthopedic foam beds, higher feeding dishes, steps to get into vehicles or your bed are a few of the products that can help the aging dog.

Clancy hiking along the San Pedro River.
7. Be realistic about the dog's life expectancy. This is the hardest decision many of us will make. I know, I've had to make that decision. When is it time to say goodbye to your four-legged companion? Even if you have scads of money for treatments, consider the quality of life for the dog. It's not about us at that point, it's about what's really best for the animal. Work with your vet to determine when the dog is suffering. You don't want your faithful old buddy to suffer unnecessarily.

There's a lot to be said for old dogs. They're calmer, and love to hang out with you. Our dog, Clancy is 11 and in good health. His step is a little slower, but he still loves to go for walks, he plays "chase me because I've got your shoe in my mouth", and begs for treats. He needs a little help getting into the truck, and he barks at non-existent visitors. His hiking days are over--that happened about a year ago. He's always glad to see me, is ready to go for a walk or a ride, or sleep at my feet. Napping is his main activity. He does watch the time and lets my husband know when it's 9:00 p.m. and the last walk of the day. But, he has no idea that glucosamine is in his food. We'll keep it that way.


2 comments:

Stacy Zimmerman said...

It is true that dogs vary in life expectancy depending on their breed and how they are taken care of. Senior dogs however, are prone to injuries and diseases. That's why regular exercise and a visit to the vet every once in a while is important. Thanks for sharing! :)

Stacy Zimmerman

Laurinda Wallace said...

You are correct Stacy. Good point. Thanks for your comment.

Positively encouraging

1/11/2014

Taking Care of Your Older Dog

If your dog is getting gray on his or her muzzle and is over seven years old, you've got a senior canine in the house. Just like us, there are signs that age is creeping up on them.  Joints may be stiff, hearing and eyesight may decline. Older dogs may lose some of that keen sense of smell and not be as interested in their kibble.

A dog's lifespan is dependent on breed and size. Usually extra large dogs have a shorter time with us, such as Great Danes. The expected lifespan is 6-8 years for them. Other large breed dogs may live to age 10. The little guys, especially terriers may see 16 though, so be aware of what is typical for your breed.

Just as you paid special attention to that puppy, now is the time for a little extra care for your aging dog. Here are some ways to make sure your dog is enjoying his old age.

1.  Regular vet check ups and immunizations. Preventative care and early detection of problems are important, just as it is for us.

2.  Older dogs still need walks and play times. They may be a little more sedate, but they need exercise. So enjoy your calmer senior dog that may not yank your arm on the leash now. And throw the ball a few times if she still enjoys it.

3. A dog may start to pack on the pounds in the senior years, so pay attention to how much and what you're feeding. A senior formulated dog food may be just the thing, with lower fat and more fiber. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? There are also foods with glucosamine/chrondrotin already in them, which may help with joint issues. Our older Labrador hates supplements and medication-no matter what flavor, so food with these supplements already in it saves a lot of hassle. An overweight dog is unhealthy. It's more stress on the joints and heart. That also sounds familiar.

4.  Heat and cold may affect your dog more severely at this stage of life. If your dog is outside during the day, make sure there is shelter from sun and cold. During extreme cold temps - teens and below, all dogs should be kept inside. In extreme heat, plenty of water and a comfy, shaded shelter are necessary.

5. Pay attention to changes in habits. If your dog doesn't seem to hear commands, he may have some hearing loss. The same with eyesight. It's possible for dogs to get cataracts that will impair their vision, but a common occurrence is nuclear sclerosis which is a discoloration of the eye. Dental health is important. Incontinence and loss of bowel control should be reported to your vet. And dementia is possible. If in doubt, have your vet check it out.

6.  Senior dog accessories can make life more pleasant. Orthopedic foam beds, higher feeding dishes, steps to get into vehicles or your bed are a few of the products that can help the aging dog.

Clancy hiking along the San Pedro River.
7. Be realistic about the dog's life expectancy. This is the hardest decision many of us will make. I know, I've had to make that decision. When is it time to say goodbye to your four-legged companion? Even if you have scads of money for treatments, consider the quality of life for the dog. It's not about us at that point, it's about what's really best for the animal. Work with your vet to determine when the dog is suffering. You don't want your faithful old buddy to suffer unnecessarily.

There's a lot to be said for old dogs. They're calmer, and love to hang out with you. Our dog, Clancy is 11 and in good health. His step is a little slower, but he still loves to go for walks, he plays "chase me because I've got your shoe in my mouth", and begs for treats. He needs a little help getting into the truck, and he barks at non-existent visitors. His hiking days are over--that happened about a year ago. He's always glad to see me, is ready to go for a walk or a ride, or sleep at my feet. Napping is his main activity. He does watch the time and lets my husband know when it's 9:00 p.m. and the last walk of the day. But, he has no idea that glucosamine is in his food. We'll keep it that way.


2 comments:

Stacy Zimmerman said...

It is true that dogs vary in life expectancy depending on their breed and how they are taken care of. Senior dogs however, are prone to injuries and diseases. That's why regular exercise and a visit to the vet every once in a while is important. Thanks for sharing! :)

Stacy Zimmerman

Laurinda Wallace said...

You are correct Stacy. Good point. Thanks for your comment.