November is National Senior Pet Month so we thought we’d get into the spirit! Here’s a guide to keeping your elderly dog comfortable, courtesy of Kathleen Pohl, a vet from Zetland Vets in Bristol and My Family Vets…
Sadly, as dogs grow older, their bodies slow down and their risk of developing health conditions like kidney disease, diabetes and arthritis begins to increase.
Here are some top tips to keep your dog comfortable and healthy as they go through old age.
Make sure they stay nice and warm…
Senior dogs can’t regulate their body temperature as well as younger dogs, so it’s important to make sure they stay warm. Add a few extra blankets to their bedding, and store their bed somewhere warm and dry.
Elderly dogs are at risk of arthritis at the best of times but their risk will only increase if things are too cold at home. If they already have arthritis, the cold will only serve to make their symptoms worse. As well as providing extra bedding, you could try a vet-approved therapeutic product like Vetpro: Joints & Mobility.
Also, think about treating your elderly dog to a comfy coat, that’ll keep them warm when they’re out on walks during the colder months.
…but cool in the summer
Keeping your pet warm is important, especially during the winter months, but keeping them cool in the summer is essential too!
Ideally, store your dog’s bedding somewhere that’s well-ventilated, cool in the summer but easy to warm up during the winter. Otherwise, you could move your dog’s bed depending on the time of year or on the weather.
If you’re spending time in the garden during the summer months, make sure your dog has access to shade so they can keep themselves cool. Keep fresh water close by too, making sure there’s a constant supply.
Store their bedding and food somewhere convenient
Try to keep as short a distance as possible between the areas where your dog spends most of their time. I.e. their food and water bowls, their bed and preferred toilet spot – it’s also a great idea to keep everything downstairs and to reduce the amount of stairs your dog has to climb as much as you can. This will minimise the strain on their joints while they’re up and about.
Adjust exercise and diet accordingly
Elderly dogs still need their exercise, just maybe not as much as they used to get.
Regular exercise will help maintain your dog’s condition, mentally and physically. Without it, they’d be at a greater risk of weight gain, which can lead to a whole host of knock-on effects.
Now that your dog isn’t running around and playing with quite the same enthusiasm, try to adjust their diet. Less active dogs need fewer calories than their younger friends! Why not ask your vet about the best high-quality diet for your dog?
Keep their mind active
There are 2 benefits to playing games with your elderly dog. First off, a game will help keep their mind occupied and provide all-important mental stimulation. Second, the exercise will compensate for their modest walks.
Of course, you don’t have to play a heated game of tug of war, or throw toys to the other end of the lawn and expect your dog to retrieve them again and again. Instead, try a puzzle feeder, or some interactive ‘hide and seek’ based games in the house.
Attend all of your routine health checks
Routine health checks are so useful because they let your vet keep regular tabs on your dog. If anything doesn’t look right, they can spot it and set about treating it before it gets worse and more serious.
Now that your dog is older and more susceptible to a number of illnesses, it’s even more important to maintain their six-monthly health checks with your vet.
Treatments like vaccinations and flea and worm prevention are also more crucial now that your dog is older.
Keep your eyes peeled
Of course, don’t wait until it’s time for your dog’s six-month health check. Book an appointment as soon as you can if your dog shows any of the following signs: