As a dog owner it is difficult to watch your dog age and encounter the struggles of entering the senior years. We watch as their mobility becomes restricted, appetite changes and senses slow and become dull. Though most of the signs are obvious our dogs also have a distinct way of changing their behaviour to give us hints.
Trouble Seeing and Hearing
Though we may think they have adopted the selective hearing trait or are uninterested in what we are asking or telling them, this behaviour in dogs over 7 is usually a sign of hearing loss. Some may even show signs of surprise or being startled sometimes attributed to pain or sensitivity in that moment. Teaching hand signals is a great way to h them so they can still understand you, though they may not be able to hear well. When speaking about vision indicators usually show through clumsiness and the lack of interest in moving around. Some ways you can help them is decluttering the floor areas, marking different rooms with different scents, creating barriers to stairs, pools and other dangerous areas and keeping items that are familiar in the same place.
Stress is difficult to handle for a senior dog. Separation anxiety and daily life activities like visitors, new noises and new dogs may have them acting more unsettled and bothered. Clingy behaviour usually follows and is due to the fact they are uncomfortable and their senses are dulling which is causing concern. To ease the anxiousness try short, frequent walks, declutter the floor area, allow extra space with new visitors and in public and keep routines consistent and be as patient as possible with this change they experience.
The Become Colder, Easier
As dogs age it is harder to regulate their body temperature, which is why cozy beds and coats help. Using these items to maintain their body temperature will help with stiffness and avoid illness because their body does have to work so hard to keep their temperature regulated. Have two beds available to them for sleeping and place near a heat source if possible. When walking head out with a coat or sweater to stay warm.
We see several dogs experience joint and arthritis pain from an old injury or because of aging. Moving in and out of the car or down stairs is usually a tell tale sign. Provide them with steps and ramps to avoid jumping up and down and take shorter frequent walks, swims and supplements can assist as well.
Low energy and the disinterest to join in for a walk may be the reason for weight gain, but also their general caloric needs shift as they age. As dogs age their metabolism slows down and they need less food to maintain a consistent weight. Moving to a senior dog food and treats may assist with weight gain and cutting down on daily treats may be a great idea as well.
As dogs age their body changes including their skin, coat and nails which can become dry, brittle or more coarse. Adding oils to their coat will help prevent the dry and itchiness they experience and booking frequent nail trimming appointments may be prudent. Daily coat and teeth brushing will help them stay clean and allows you to check their skin closely for irritations, bumps, scrapes and gum disease. Devoting a little extra time each day as they age will make them feel like a million bucks.
As our dogs age it's important to keep an eye on their behaviour and health. Providing them with the assistance they need as they show signs of their age will make them happy aging dogs.