To ensure your dog has a happy and healthy life at old age, there is a lot to know about caring for an older dog.
Just like people, a dog needs a large and soft sleeping place where it can comfortably sit and lie. It is essential to have a comfortable bed if the animal has sore joints. Your pet's sleeping place should be quiet and warm, located as far away from the drafts and everyday bustle of the house as possible. Also, make sure your four-legged friend has adequate access to a bowl of clean, fresh drinking water so that the elderly and sick dog does not have to run up the stairs unnecessarily to drink.
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You will probably notice that your pet is no longer as agile and energetic during a walk as it used to be when it reaches adulthood. Besides, arthrosis of the joints can make it difficult for an elderly dog to get in or out of a car, so in this situation, be sure to put a special stand to make it easier for your elderly four-legged friend.
Nutrition for an older dog
Changing Daily Nutritional Needs
It is important to understand that as you age, your pet's nutritional needs will change significantly. Depending on the breed, from 7-8 years old, dogs, as a rule, begin to feel more relaxed about life – they are less active, and their metabolic rate slows down somewhat, as a result of which your elderly pet will no longer need the same number of calories in the daily diet as before. On the other hand, when metabolic processes in the body slow down and energy expenditure is reduced, this can lead to overweight and fat accumulation, which is why an older dog needs an easily digestible protein in its diet to stay in good physical shape.
Dog food with grain has an influence on dog's wellbeing and raises activity. But you should be attentive to the teeth of senior dogs – they can be damaged with dry food. If the condition of teeth allows it, better choose food with grain – doctors claim that grains are an exceptional nutrient source. They are full of nutrients and nourish organisms with carbohydrates, fat, and antioxidants. Healthy hair and also a wholesome immune system can be guaranteed by adding grains to the feeding.
When looking at grains on the ingredient list of your dog food, grains may be listed as whole or refined. As it mentioned on vet approved review on thepets.net, whole grains (including brown rice) are healthier than refined grains (including white rice) as they contain the outer layers and core of the grain and have high levels of fiber and vitamins.
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Loss of Appetite
If your dog suddenly loses its appetite or completely refuses to eat as it grows old, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to make sure your pet is safe. At the same time, sometimes it is quite simple to awaken the appetite of your four-legged friend – you need to feed it in small portions, but often, alternating the taste and consistency of the food and not forgetting to heat the food.
Senior dogs need essential nutrients – fiber, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals – to stay healthy and thrive. During the aging process, a dog’s body undergoes changes requiring diet adjustments. The nutritional needs are different from younger ones.
Regular Medical Examinations
Similar to humans, older dogs are prone to certain health problems. Some of these problems can be a natural consequence of the body's aging, so it is useless to fight them. Simultaneously, a variety of other physical illnesses and ailments can be easily avoided or even completely cured. Therefore, regular check-ups with an experienced veterinarian will certainly help your dog stay healthy in the twilight years. You need to prioritize your dog's health and wellness, and you also need to be prepared for unexpected accidents and illnesses. That's why pet insurance from companies like Pumpkin is crucial.
To maintain an elderly dog's health, it is necessary to see the veterinarian regularly. There are even dedicated veterinary clinics for senior dogs, there is a great online tool to find the right vet clinic. An experienced doctor will certainly conduct a thorough physical examination of your pet and measure its weight, and, if necessary, take blood and urine for tests, which will prevent diseases that are most typical for four-legged friends who have reached old age. And, of course, do not stop vaccinating your elderly pet on time, as well as checking for worms and fleas.
Skin, Hair, and Nails
To keep the skin, coat, and nails of an elderly dog healthy, perform appropriate grooming procedures at least once a week. This recommendation is especially relevant for long-haired dogs. Besides, it is advisable to bathe and wash your pet regularly. However, keep in mind that many older dogs have joint problems.
Therefore, water treatment should be performed with extreme caution! Make sure the water is warm, and the environment is soothing while you swim. Do not disregard the animal's claws – this is extremely important because as the dog's physical activity decreases, its claws become not as sharp and tenacious as before. If you notice that your pet is experiencing some discomfort when walking or finds that he has an ingrown claw, try to show the dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Because older dogs are more likely than younger dogs to suffer from gum disease and develop more plaque, you will need to bring your pet regularly to see not only a veterinarian but also an experienced dentist.
Plaque in dogs is the leading cause of dental and gum disease. Plaque is soft, viscous, whitish formations on the oral cavity's surface, especially the teeth. The plaque has a pasty consistency and can be removed by mechanical action, such as brushing the teeth. The plaque color matches the teeth' color, so it is rather difficult to determine its presence visually.
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Plaque begins to be deposited within half an hour after brushing your teeth. It is formed as a result of microorganisms' interaction, which always normally live in large numbers in the oral cavity, and saliva. The plaque itself is harmless. However, due to the presence of a large number of minerals in saliva, the plaque is mineralized and turns into tartar.
Tartar in dogs can be deposited very quickly – less than 48 hours after plaque begins to form. It is harmless, but its surface is very uneven and porous. Therefore, bacterial plaque always forms both on the surface and inside solid deposits. Tartar is securely attached to the tooth and can only be removed by mechanical action.
Due to the deposition of calculus and microorganisms' vital activity, the gingival groove deepens – the place where the gums attach to the tooth. This leads to gum pocket formation and gingivitis. If this condition is not treated, after a while, the process involves the tissues responsible for keeping the tooth in the alveolus – the periodontium. Periodontal disease develops. Over time, it leads to tooth loss, abscesses, resorption of the jaw bone, etc.
Signs and Symptoms of Aging
Remember, it is not enough only to feed and groom your dog properly! For your elderly pet to be healthy, you also need to know what diseases to watch out for in old age and how you can avoid them. You can diagnose some of the health problems below that are common companions to aging at home, and your veterinarian will tell you what to do about the situation.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, or if your elderly pet is suffering from diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, sudden weight gain or loss, or a sudden decrease in physical activity, seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian as soon as possible.
The old dog becomes very slow and does everything after much thought. Do not rush it and do not get nervous with impatience, but rather remember how a young, cheerful mischievous person pleased you when he was a funny and touching puppy.
Be attentive to the old dog when you have to go down or climb the stairs – over the years, the ladder is given to it more and more with great difficulty, do not rush the dog and do not jerk – old dogs feel unhappy when they are spoken to loudly, harshly or forced somewhere hurry. It would help if you were careful and patient with them.
And, of course, do not worry – remember: a specially designed diet, along with regular medical examinations by a veterinarian and careful health care of your pet, will certainly help to feel happy and cheerful at the end of its days!