If you are a dog owner in Broken Arrow, you may have experienced taking care of senior dogs. Whether you have adopted the dog or have raised him since he was a puppy, senior dogs have needs that are different from young and adult dogs. A senior dog’s special needs are to be addressed so that you can give your dog the best care possible and he can live a long, full life.
When can a dog be considered old?
The relative age of a dog depends on whether he belongs to a large breed or a small breed. Large breeds are considered senior at the age of 6 or 7 while smaller breeds tend to live longer and are not considered “old” until they reach their teen years.
What changes can I expect now that my dog is old?
As your dog ages, they undergo changes physically and mentally which may include:
- Slower metabolism and slower activity
- Skin and hair coat changes
- Brittle nails and thickened footpads
- Decreased mobility and arthritis
- Dental problems
- Decreased gastrointestinal motility (constipation)
- Decreased ability to fight infections (lowered immune response)
- Decreased heart function and heart problems
- Decreased lung function
- Decreased kidney function and urinary incontinence
- Decreased liver function
- Change in behaviour
- Increased sensitivity to temperature changes
- Hearing loss
- Change in eye color and loss of vision
How to Take Care of Senior Dogs?
Routine care and grooming
Dogs of all ages, most especially very young and old pets require regular grooming and care. Not only does regular grooming and care important for maintaining the health of your dog but it also helps in identifying health problems early.
- Appetite, thirst, urination, defecation, and general behaviour
As an owner, you need to be aware of what your dog eats, how much and how often he eats and how much and how often he drinks water. You also have to be aware of your pet’s general behaviour, urine volume and frequency, and frequency of defecation and color, appearance, consistency and volume of his feces/stool.
Increased frequency of urination, urinary incontinence, and blood in urine are indications of kidney problems.
Difficulty in breathing and lesser tolerance to exercise are signs that your dog may have heart problems.
Have your dog checked by a vet in Broken Arrow if you notice any changes in appetite, urination, defection and behaviour.
- Hair coat, skin, ears, eyes and teeth
To prevent your dog’s coat from becoming thinner and duller as a result of old age, you can give fatty acid supplements. Dull and thin hair coat may also be a sign of disease or nutritional deficiency so have him checked by a vet.
Clip your dog’s nails regularly to avoid overgrowth and take extra care in the clipping.
Because an old dog’s ability to regulate body temperature is reduced, make sure to towel dry and/or blow dry your dog’s coat after bathing.
Senior dogs (especially smaller senior dogs) are prone to dental disease so it is important that you have your dog’s teeth checked and cleaned regularly by a vet and practise regular brushing at home.
Preventive Health Care
Vaccination is important for the prevention of infectious diseases like canine distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis, tracheobronchitis, rabies, Lyme disease, and coronavirus. The initial vaccinations are usually given when they are still puppies (at 2-3 week intervals) and are then given annually. Although some of these disease usually occur in puppies (e.g. distemper, parvovirus), some of these can also affect older dogs (e.g. hepatitis, rabies, leptospirosis). Ask your vet in Broken Arrow to check and make sure that your dog’s vaccination is updated.
- Ovariohysterectomy (OVH) and castration
Geriatric dogs that have not been spayed or castrated have higher risks of getting mammary, testicular and prostate cancers so you may opt to have your dog undergo OVH or castration to lessen the risks.
- Regular (semi-annual to annual) health examinations
Geriatric dogs need more frequent and more detailed check-ups by the vet so that signs of illness or disease can be detected and treated early.
Dogs have intestinal parasites such as roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Regular deworming is essential for your pet because these parasites can cause anemia, diarrhea and weakness. Severe parasitism also makes your dog more susceptible to infections.
Heartworm and parasites of the skin (fleas, ticks, mites) can also affect your old dog.
Ask your vet in Broken Arrow for the right deworming, heartworm prevention and ectoparasite control regimen for your ageing dog.
Nutrition and weight control in Senior Dogs
Geriatric dogs need to be given foods that are readily digestible (meat-based proteins are more easily digested by dogs and have higher biologic value—more amino acid content—than plant-based proteins).
Their food should also contain different amounts of fat and fiber content (increased or decreased) in order to maintain optimal body weight and condition.
It is not advised that you feed your dogs with table scraps, homemade meals and snacks because they will have a greater tendency to be obese than if you feed them with commercial pet food.
Mobility and overall health
Regular exercise is also needed by older dogs to maintain mobility and control their weight. Arthritis may also be a problem for some dogs. Your vet can prescribe medicines to ease the pain and discomfort of arthritis.
Senior dogs with longer spines such as dachshunds and Welsh corgis may be prone to spinal diseases. Maintaining normal weight is important to prevent spinal diseases and joint diseases (in large breeds).
Housing, household hazards and environment
Household hazards for your dog include electric cords, lead-based paints, cleaning supplies, antifreeze, insecticides, prescription drugs, alcoholic beverages, chocolate, sewing needles, and others.
Steep stairs, slippery floors, and open windows may also be hazardous for your pet.
Older dogs spend more time sleeping so you must provide them a safe and quiet place where they can relax and take a nap.
Pets can also suffer from senility. What you can to slow down or prevent this from happening is to provide constant stimulation by interaction.
Your dog’s emotional needs
Above all, your dog needs more of your tender loving care now that he is getting old. Be sensitive to your dog’s special needs and give time for play and massage.
Brush your dog’s hair and interact with them often. Giving attention and care for them will help ease the discomforts and the pains of old age.
For concerns on your senior dog’s health, contact your vet in Broken Arrow by calling (918) 258-0040
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Village Vet Animal Clinic
2026 West Houston Street
Broken Arrow, OK 74012