21 Tips For A Happy And Healthy Old Dog

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Everyone gets older, including our dogs. It would be a wonderful world if this wasn’t the case, but unfortunately, nature works this way and there is no way for your canine buddy not to become old.

Owning an older dog is something completely different from owning a young pup, but if you know what you are doing, you can ensure that your canine companion is as healthy and as active as possible even well into advanced age.

1. Dog Years Explained

In order to be able to care for your old dog, the first thing you need to find out is exactly how old they are. To do so, you should learn what the equivalents for human years are in dog years, as this will allow you to understand the age of your canine friend better and give it all the care it needs.

You should know that dogs that are large to very large (51-90 lbs and over 90 lbs) get old more quickly than small to medium dogs (0-20 lbs and 21-50 lbs).

Taking this into consideration, 7 dog years equals 44-47 human years for small to medium and 50-56 for large to very large dogs. Ten dog years equals 56-60 for smaller and 66-78 for large dogs. Fifteen years in dog years equals 76-83 for smaller and 93-115 for large dogs. Finally, 20 dog years is 96-105 for smaller dogs and 120 for larger dogs.

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2. Learn About Elderly Dogs

Another thing you will want to do to ensure your elderly dog is being taken care of properly is to educate yourself on what actually happens to dogs when they get older and what you should do to make their life easier and healthier.

We would like to think that our tips are enough to ensure you know everything about older dogs, but we are not all-knowing. Instead, we will advise you to read up on the matter some more, checking out books and various websites that deal with this matter. You will also find online communities where people share their stories about their aging dogs.

In addition to this, you should consult your veterinarian from time to time as your dog starts getting older. They are the most knowledgeable people around and you can trust their advice and their expertise always.

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3. You’ll Be Seeing Your Veterinarian More Often

We have already mentioned veterinarians as a source of knowledge and advice, but when you care for an elderly dog, your veterinarian will become a much more common presence in your life and the life of your dog.

While annual veterinarian visits are recommended for “regular” dogs, geriatric canines will need to pay a visit to the veterinarian at least two times a year. Of course, if there are some problems that they discover during your regular visits, this may mean you will need to see them more often than that.

Your veterinarian will know exactly what to look for in an older dog, as they are well aware of the specific health considerations that have to do with advancing age in canines. If you think that your elderly dog is perfectly healthy, this does not mean that you shouldn’t take it to the vet.

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4. Coming Up With A Special Diet

One of the most basic considerations that you need to make as your dog gets older has to do with their diet. Namely, dogs that have reached a certain age will need to see their diet adjusted for their advancing age and the effects the years have had on their digestive system.

The first thing you will need to do is cut on the calories that your dog is getting from its food. This is due to the fact that older dogs are at greater risk of getting obese because of their slower metabolism, which can lead to a whole plethora of other medical problems.

In addition to this, elderly dogs require more fiber in their diet in order to keep things running smoothly, so to say. The good news is that pretty much all of the dog food manufacturers have formulations that are aimed specifically at elderly dogs.

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5. Stay On Watch For Parasites

One of the effects of advancing age on any organism, your canine companion included, is the weakening of the immune system. Because of this, your elderly dog is somewhat more likely to suffer from parasites than they were in their youth.

There are no new parasites to worry about, as the old culprits still feature prominently, such as roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, giardia, tapeworms and coccidia, among others. Because of this increased risk of suffering from worm infections, you should be more vigilant for signs of such infections.

In addition to this, you should react immediately if you notice any of the signs that might indicate such an infection since elderly dog bodies are less-equipped to handle these infections on their own. The signs you should be alert to include diarrhea (especially bloody), scooting on the floor, anemia, reduced appetite, weight loss and vomiting.

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6. Keeping Your Elderly Buddy Mobile

The aging body slows down in pretty much every respect, but the area where this is perhaps most noticeable is when we are talking motor functions and mobility. It is no secret that older dogs just aren’t as springy as their younger versions, often content to mosey instead of run and less interested in physical activity in general.

The first thing to do when you notice your dog slowing down is to visit your veterinarian to make sure your dog is not suffering from arthritis or experiencing any other condition that might be limiting their mobility. The diagnosis you should be hoping for is that your dog is simply getting older.

Once it has been cleared, you can start doing an exercise regimen with your dog, specifically designed for elderly dogs. Make sure you are not pushing your dog too much and that it is actually enjoying the exercise, though.

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7. A Whole Different Set Of Vaccination

Every smart and reasonable dog owner understands the importance and the value of regular vaccinations when their four-legged friends are in question. Without vaccination, your dog is not only at an increased risk of contracting all kinds of life-threatening diseases, but also a potential carrier of disease which can then infect other dogs.

Throughout the dog’s life, their owner will be taking them for various vaccinations depending on the veterinarian’s recommendations and instructions. Once your dog reaches a certain age, the vaccination schedule and content will change and it is important you stay on top of it.

You will hear a lot about whether elderly dogs need more vaccinations due to their age or not and the best thing to do is talk to your veterinarian. Once again, their expertise will be invaluable and they will know what is best for your dog.

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8. Ensuring Separation Is Not Unbearable For Your Dog

Separation anxiety is just one of the mood problems that can become more common and pronounced in elderly dogs. It is a condition where the dog feels anxious and restless when left alone. It is not a condition that only affects senior dogs, but it is definitely more common.

The symptoms will include panting, trembling, salivating, hiding and pacing as you are preparing to leave. They might also involve soiling of the house and destructive behavior when you leave, as well as refusal to eat while you are away. What is more, some dogs also show signs of nighttime anxiety, as they see you sleeping as a form of separation.

In order to deal with the problem of senior separation anxiety, you should talk to a veterinarian which specializes in this condition and who will know what needs to be done. Desensitization and counterconditioning are the most common ways to address this problem.

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9. Special Environment For Your Aging Buddy

Your dog’s living arrangement needs will also change as they age and you should always make sure they enjoy their new living and “hanging-out” space as much as possible.

One of the first considerations is the coziness of their bed which will probably need to be enhanced as the dog gets older. Older bones and muscles need softer resting place and you should think about adding some pillows and covers to make it fit for a sultan. In addition to this, you will probably want to consider the temperature of the resting area and switching it to a warmer place in the house.

If you have stairs in your home, you might want to keep everything on the ground level as it becomes more difficult for your dog to get up and down stairs. You might also need to limit their time outside if you notice they are not feeling as great as they did before while outdoors.

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10. Conditions That Depend On The Reproductive System

It is a well-known fact that there is a difference between neutered and non-neutered dogs and this is never more obvious than when they reach a certain age.

For example, dogs that were neutered earlier in life are at increased risk of becoming obese in old age, especially if you do not make any changes to their diet. They are also more susceptible to diabetes and this is another consideration that you need to make. You should consult about your elderly dog’s diet with your veterinarian and see what they have to say about it.

On the other hand, dogs that were not neutered are at an increased risk of different types of cancer such as testicular, prostatic and mammary cancers, which are more common in senior dogs anyway. If you notice any signs of pain, make sure to visit your vet for a cancer checkup.

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11. Not much you can do about senility

Just like older humans, dogs that are advanced in age run the risk of senility. Senility is usually easy to spot, because the entire personality of the dog tends to change. How do you know if your dog is suffering from this type of problem? Most dogs that are going senile will act as if they are confused, disoriented and lost.

They will often behave as if they are lost and they don’t know what’s going on or where they are. Sometimes they might seem panicked as well. It is a very unfortunate thing and sometimes it’s incredibly hard to see your dog go through this, but unfortunately, there is not much you can do to remedy it.

Just like in humans, dogs can suffer from cognitive dysfunction, which is simply put, a deterioration of the brain. There really isn’t much that you can do other than trying to comfort them and make the dog feel as loved and cared for as possible.

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12. Be vigilant about detecting cancer

Cancer is unfortunately something that can affect a dog of any age, but overall, cancer is much more prevalent in older dogs, especially dogs that are ten years old or older. It is the leading cause of death for older dogs actually.

The worst thing about cancer is that there really are no rules and cancer can appear in just about any organ. What you can do is look closely, especially when you have an older dog, for some symptoms that could suggest cancer.

Any strange changes in their daily habits should be noted and it’s a good idea to check your dogs for lumps and possible tumors whenever you are petting or brushing them. If you suspect cancer, you need to go to the vet immediately so that the vet can do a biopsy. Sometimes the tumor can be removed successfully with surgery, but other times chemotherapy or radiation therapy might be considered.

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13. Sometimes euthanasia is unavoidable

Having your old dog euthanized is one of the most difficult and painful decisions that a pet owner can make. However, it is sometimes the best decision. Anyone who has had a dog for so long feels as if that dog is a part of the family. It’s hard to say goodbye, especially when it comes time for you to make that decision.

But in some cases, it really is the best thing to do. Some of these old dogs that get very sick are really suffering. They are in a lot of pain and there really is nothing that you can do to help cure them or ease the pain. In such cases, it is best to talk to your vet about euthanasia.

Of course, it is not absolutely necessary. If it goes against your personal beliefs, that’s fine. But it’s always best to get the opinion of a vet first before deciding either way.

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14. It’s not their fault they’re incontinent

Incontinence is another very common problem when it comes to old dogs. They tend to not only forget about house training and how it works, sometimes they just can’t even help it. In the case that they can no longer control when they go to the bathroom, it’s simply something you’re going to have to deal with.

You cannot blame or punish them for it, because they really do have no control over it and nothing you say to them is going to help them regain control of these bodily functions again. The best things to do is find a way to live with it.

A good idea is to keep elderly dogs in an area where you have flooring that is easy to clean up, like a wood floor or tiles. If it’s warm outside, let them stay outside. It’s a tough situation, but it’s a reality that you are going to have to deal with if your dog becomes incontinent.

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15. Be sensitive to deterioration of eyesight

Just like senility, deteriorating eyesight is something else that affects older dogs just as it can affect older human beings. There are a variety of problems that can occur with their eyes as dogs age. Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to spot. The dog’s eyes will appear a bit cloudy or blurry, like there is a white cloud sitting on their eyes.

This usually means that the dog has an issue with cataracts. If this is indeed the diagnosis, there’s nothing you can do about it. Dogs can’t have eye surgery or wear glasses. What you need to do is help your dog out in any way possible if it can’t see well.

You should help them in an out of the house, and if you see that they are struggling to find their way around the house, guide them. Thankfully, dogs have a strong sense of smell and hearing and that usually helps them navigate a lot better than humans can move around when they have similar issues.

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16. Grooming is different for old dogs

Many people wrongfully assume that older dogs don’t need grooming anymore. It’s absolutely untrue. Not only do you have to groom your dogs to make sure that you are getting all of their tangles and knots out and making sure that shedding is getting taken care of as well, but grooming is also an essential part of bonding with your dog. It’s a special time that both of you share together.

However, when you are grooming an older dog, you definitely have to pay more attention and be a little more careful about it. Dogs that are older tend to have more bumps and growth all over their bodies, so you really need to be more careful and look out for those when you are grooming them. Also, generally, their skin is simply a lot more likely to tear and not as elastic when they are older, so be gentle.

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17. House soiling is also a possibility

As mentioned previously when it comes to incontinence, expect some type of house soiling to be going on even if it is not a case of absolute incontinence. Once again, a lot of people tend to wrongfully assume that this is some kind of a behavioral problem and that the dog is upset about something and soiling the house on purpose.

But that is almost never the case. Usually, there is some type of medical problem that is leading to the soiling issues. One of the most likely problems is a bacterial bladder infection. When your dog has this type of infection, the frequency of urination increases and it is sometimes harder for them to hold it in.

Urinary incontinence is also a very normal problem that older dogs have. In this case, they tend to dribble urine, which can lead to house soiling. Thankfully, medication should be able to remedy both issues.

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18. Destructive behavior can have a variety of causes

Destructive behavior is another common problem with old dogs that is usually linked to some type of health problem that can be treated. What exactly is destructive behavior that you can expect to see from a senior dog?

Things like attacking or scratching family members, chewing on their own body parts or swallowing inedible objects are some of the most common problems of this nature. Sometimes, these behavioral problems stem from issues similar to the ones that affects that are going senile. It’s very hard for them to function in that state, so something that can occur is destructive behavior in such a situation.

The dog might be confused, afraid and frustrated, and destroying something is just one way that the dog is trying to cope with its issues. If your dog is chewing on furniture or eating things that it should not eat, it’s best to give them new, safer toys to chew and play with and provide them more edible snacks to chew on.

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19. Medical conditions can lead to aggression

Aggression can often also result from some type of underlying medical condition. If your senior dog is being aggressive towards you and others, then there are a variety of things that could be causing this.

Some of the medical problems that are often related to an increase in aggression in elderly dogs include, but are not limited to, things like their lack of mobility, cognition and a loss of appetite. Older dogs are simply more sensitive than younger dogs, which is why changes in their environment might lead to aggressive actions as well.

Many older dogs do not like their surrounding being changed, so they might often react aggressively towards people that they are not familiar with. The same goes for new animals that get introduced to the home. Older dogs have more anxiety issues that younger dogs and that’s one of the main reasons that they tend to be aggressive in their old age, even if they have never been before.

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20. Get them the right toys

It’s important to remember that the best way to preserve your aging dog’s health is to keep them active. That means that you should keep them active both mentally and physically. Having the right toys and games for older dogs in important for that reason.

When it comes to chewing toys, make sure that you are buying age appropriate ones. Of course, older dogs have fragile teeth, so make sure that you are getting them things that are soft and shew and really easy on the teeth. It’s also a good idea to get them toys that keep them thinking. Things like those puzzles that can be moved around with the nose.

If you are getting them a squeaky toy, get those that have squeaks on both sides of the toy, so that the squeaking is loader and the dog can hear it even if it has impaired hearing. Whenever you are buying toys, think about what is best for the dog at that age and think about all of the physical or mental limitations that might make other toys inappropriate.

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21. Dental care is very important for senior dogs

As mentioned previously, an older dogs dental situation will never be ideal. Their teeth will definitely be less strong the older they get, but if you are taking care of their dental health on a regular basis, you are making sure that their teeth are as strong and healthy as they can be at their age.

You can do your part by brushing their teeth on a regular basis. Sure, most dog’s don’t like it, but you can create a reward system so that they know that if they let you brush their teeth, they’ll get a treat. If you have the money, it’s also highly recommended to go to the vet every year to get an annual teeth cleaning session in. Your vet should check they dog’s teeth, gums and even below the gum line to make sure that everything is healthy. Getting a dental x-ray done every year is also recommended for owners of senior dogs.

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