When did you realize your dog was getting old? Did you notice grey hairs on the muzzle? Was it a stiffness in their once bouncy gait? Did your vet mention it was time for a senior dog checkup?
Maybe the longer you treat them like a puppy, or at least an adult dog, the longer your dog will be with you.
Maybe if you tell yourself they are just a bit stiff from that long walk, you can pretend they don’t groan every time they stand up.
Maybe if you ignore the completely grey muzzle, you can imagine 10 more years with your dog.
Just as we see people behaving in very age-inappropriate ways in a vain attempt to stay young, ignoring the signs our dog is now a senior doesn’t make it go away.
These are my top two all-time best tips for helping your senior dog's life be better. If you only read these two tips, then this short article on how to make your old dog happy and comfortable will have served its purpose.
#1 BE AWARE Watch out for overall changes in your dog’s behavior, eating, sleeping, exercise level and mood.
#2 ACCOMMODATE your dog’s new needs, based on the changes you’ve noticed.
COMFORT FIRST (One of My Mottos)
Warm and Cozy. Old dogs chill more easily! Try a fluffy blanket on top of their bed, maybe a sweater for them and move their bed out of drafts.
Speaking of Beds. Snag a couple of thicker orthopedic (the egg crate ones) and keep beds in every room your dog visits. Washable covers, please.
Get a Grip. Older dogs are not as steady on their feet. Put a bath mat under their food and water bowl, gives them traction and is easy to keep clean. Consider carpeting any steps your dog uses to keep them safe. At some point you may have to install a gate to keep them from using the stairs. Kinda like great-grandpa giving up the keys to the Caddy.
Looking Good.Nails need to be trimmed more often, as many dogs are weaker in the pasterns (wrist area) and nails won’t wear down on their own as easily. (Really? I know, it’s not fair). If your dog is professionally groomed consult with your groomer on their geriatric needs. If you’re a DIYer, brush more often as your more sedentary dog may be more prone to mats.
Feeling Good. Your dog needs at least an annual senior checkup. Take a list of questions on how to make your older dog happier and more comfortable to the vet so you don’t forget anything. Together you and your vet can create a game plan for your dog’s senior years. Dental needs should also be addressed, check with your vet on this one also. Bad breath, chewing only on one side and refusing to eat hard foods are all dental issue alerts.
Adjust exercise to their current fitness levels, but keep them active!
Eating Well. Feed a top-quality food and supplement as needed, with vet’s approval. Many older dogs like a softer food that is easier on their teeth. If you notice your dog leaving kibble in the bowl or losing interest in food, you may need to soak it in some warm broth or add a quality soft food. Just like us, yep again, your senior dog may gain weight more easily than they did as an active adult. Keep your dog at a fit weight.
Living Large. Keep your senior dog involved in family life as much as possible. Your old dog doesn’t need to join you for a five mile hike up the mountain to camp under the stars, but they may enjoy going for a drive or a shorter walk around the block. An engaged mind will stay sharp longer!
Living Loved.You don’t need me to tell you to love on your older dog every chance you get, but I’m going to anyway! Love, cuddle, repeat. Cherish this time you have, it will never be enough.