Dog Care 101 Tip #214: Caring for Senior Dogs
As we near the end of “Be Kind to Animals Month,” we at BestBullySticks thought we should set aside some time for a very special group of dogs — seniors. For aging canines, there are special considerations that need to be kept in mind. Keeping a keen eye on behavior and general health in addition to some fine tuning in diet is all that’s needed to maintain healthy living into the senior years. Old age comes at different times for different breeds, though. That’s why we've put together a guide to not only identify aging, but also how to properly care for your dog as a senior.
Knowing what to look out for is half the battle. If you’re able to spot signs of health complications early, there’s a good chance the damage can be minimized. Here are some common health issues to watch out for:
Graying: Of course, there’s nothing dangerous about going gray, but it is a good indicator of middle-age and early seniority. It should be noted, some dogs go gray early despite still being quite young.
Vision & Hearing: Inevitably, vision and hearing deteriorate with old age. For vision, some signs to watch out for are increased clumsiness and cloudy eyes. Cloudy eyes, which are often harmless and a normal process of aging, are the product of lenticular sclerosis. This is sometimes confused with cataracts — a clouding of the lens inside the eye — which is very detrimental to sight. If a clouding of the eyes occurs, make sure you promptly pay a visit to the vet.
Hearing loss can generally be identified a bit easier. If your dog fails to respond to his/her name or is easily startled, there could be a chance their hearing is going. Unfortunately, not much can be done to remedy this. Make sure to keep your dog away from any hazards they might not be able to see such as cars or cyclists.
Weakness: Muscles and joints deteriorate over time. Once old age is reached, you might notice your dog is having a hard time laying down or getting up from a prone position. More often than not, this could mean arthritis has started to take a toll. Dietary supplements and treats with glucosamine and chondroition can help to alleviate these symptoms.
According to the common “dog years” adage, one dog year equals seven human years. This rough approximate doesn't work for all dogs, unfortunately. Bigger dogs tend to age quicker — with some giant breeds considered to be seniors at only 6 years old!
While it’s safe to assume most dogs around 7 – 10 years old have entered old age, it varies heavily on breed size.
Dogs aren't very good complainers so sometimes it’s difficult to spot complications. Here’s a quick list of things to look out for:
Arthritis: Luckily there are medications available to help treat the pain of arthritis. For older dogs with decreased mobility, this is a great option. However, it’s not right for every dog so talk to your veterinarian to find out how to best deal with arthritis. Treats like our all-natural Venison Tracheas — made from 100% venison and Made in the USA — are packed with glucosamine to support healthy joints.
Weight Gain/Loss: Any drastic change in weight should be followed up with a trip to the vet. This can be a sign of inadequate nutrition, or potentially worse, disease. Track changes in your dog’s weight and be sure to discuss them with your veterinarian.
Hair loss: Hair loss doesn't always coincide with old age. It can be linked to fleas or skin disorders and shouldn’t be ignored as symptoms typically worsen over time if left untreated.
Thirst and Urine Output: Increased water intake can be an indicator of possible kidney problems and sometimes diabetes. Loss of control can also be a tell-tale sign something else isn't quite right so be sure to talk to your vet.
BestBullySticks also offers a variety of canine nutritional supplements to help with a multitude of issues and illnesses.
Even if you don’t spot any severe signs of health issues, it’s not a bad idea to schedule regular checkups for you dog when the senior years roll around. Not only will this identify any pre-existing issues, it will also help you develop a long term care plan for your dog and pick up on any issues as early as possible. Typical procedures performed during these regular check up sessions should include things like blood pressure, urinalysis, thyroid tests, stool analysis and complete blood counts.
There is food specifically developed for the needs of older dogs. As dogs grow older, there is an increased need for specific nutrients like calcium, as well as richer and more complete proteins. At around 5 – 7 years of age depending on the size of your dog, it might be a good idea to switch over to a senior or at the very least an adult formulated food. Take a look at our all-natural dog foods with formulas for dogs of all ages and breeds.
More meals in smaller amounts may also be a good way to lessen the stress on your dog’s digestive system. Make sure you talk to your vet before changing your dog’s existing diet or supplementary nutrition plan.
Is your dog a senior? Tell us about how he/she is enjoying the golden years! Share your story below or on BestBullySticks’ Facebook & Twitter. Don’t forget to follow us to get the latest news and product specials!