Caring for an ageing dog
Everybody wishes their dog would live for longer, and it can be hard to see them age, knowing that they will have to leave us behind eventually. However, there are lots of things we can do as dog owners to ensure our four-legged friends are as happy and healthy as possible in their later years.
Adjusting your dog’s feed to meets its requirements is important – although some dogs show a natural decrease in appetite as they age, obesity is still common in older dogs and can contribute to a variety of health problems. There are many different brands of food available that are specifically tailored to the metabolic needs of older dogs, but before making any decisions to change your dog’s diet it is best to seek the advice of your vet or a canine nutritionist. Some dogs may lose or damage teeth throughout their lifetime, and may need to be provided with softer foods that are easier to chew.
Allowing for changes in our dog’s bodies as they age is important – they may need more frequent toilet breaks throughout the day and night, and may have to be assisted with certain activities (for example, jumping into cars). Many canines also experience a deterioration in their hearing or eyesight, which may make them jumpy or more likely to bark: being patient, and providing them with a comfortable, quiet place in which they can rest will help to keep them more settled.
Even though older dogs are less active, they still benefit massively from going out on walks. If they struggle to hear or see, it is best to keep them on a lead to prevent accidents, and even if they just want to potter along slowly, getting out for a leg stretch and a good sniff will provide both physical and mental stimulation. An older dog may struggle to cope with changes in the weather as well as they did when they were young, so avoiding walking in extreme heat (which applies to every dog, regardless of age) or providing them with a coat if they feel the cold will help them to maintain a steady body temperature.
Contrary to the saying, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and this is a good way to keep their brain engaged and active, especially if they are unable to go for walks as much as they used to. Similarly, providing their meals in a novel way (such as in a tornado toy) is another way to keep their mind busy.
Although ageing will change your dog and carry them into a different stage in their life, they are still just as loving, and with a few considerations and a consistent routine they can be kept contented and well.