As humans we are aware of medical issues that begin to haunt our bodies as we age...arthritis & stiffness, dementia, incontinence, heart conditions, the list goes on. However the case is not too different for our senior dogs too. Depending on the breed of dogs, senior dogs can be classified from 8-12 years of age and that means we need to be more aware of their health & behavioural changes as they approach this mark.
Despite their grey hair (yes, their hair does turn grey), these dogs do not stop being dogs as they age. However discussions around their exercise, diet & medical care needs to be had with their vet or qualified trainers. A few things to note with senior dogs are
Sensitivity to temperature changes: As young dogs, they would have bounded around regardless of the heat or cold. But research shows that older dogs are tad more sensitive to drastic temperature fluctuations and we may need to alter their walking times if we notice their reluctance to step outside or their eagerness to return appears more than usual.
Exercise: Your dog's weight and joint health is a good indicator of the dog's energy levels and one must consult with a vet to figure out how much exercise is enough. With stiff joints and heavy weight, senior dogs will be put on a diet to manage their energy levels and their exercise routines. Make sure that you do not change your dog's food without consulting your vet.
Alternate forms of exercise are certainly recommended if the dogs begin to show signs of arthritis or muscle weakness - swimming is great way to keep their muscles strong without stressing their joints, adequate sniffing games in the house or during walks are also recommended while a good old game of tug really does no harm to most dogs. Do not forget to take your dogs to new places! A fresh availability of sights, sounds and smells will only help their cognitive functionings, so explore away!
Cognitive decline: in senior dogs is a common ailment. If you are unsure whether your dog is showing such signs, there is helpful info on the Spruce pets website where it divides the signs a dog might have to make the appropriate diagnosis.
Dental care: Senior dogs are at a heightened risk of dental issues such as gum disease and cracked/broken teeth that are not only painful, but can turn into serious conditions that require vet attention. Schedule semi-annual vet visits to get these checked out so you do not miss timely care.
Healthy diet: Keep an eye on your dog's weight and if you notice a change in energy or sudden change in weight, then schedule a vet visit ASAP to figure out the root cause for this. Diets need to be moderately changed when it comes to senior dogs, so best to consult your vet on the same.
We understand the nervousness in pet parents of aging dogs. A pet's innocence regardless of age, the undeniable devotion towards their humans and acceptance of any medication or diet makes it so much harder for us to hold back our tears when we see them in pain...we are humans after all. But this is not an indication of the end - aging dogs are reminders to us to put our lives first, to enjoy precious memories with our furry friends and make the most of what life they have left.