As your dog ages, their needs change and you may wonder how you can keep your dog happy and healthy. Here are some easy ways to ensure your senior dog stays on form as they get older, especially during the colder months.
1. Get them checked over
It’s important to keep on top of any health issues your dog may be developing, so regular check-ups at the vets are a great idea. Your vet will look at their teeth, eyes and ears, and feel their abdomen to check all is as it should be.
If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, this is the time to raise it. If your vet notices anything unusual, you’ll know that you’ve caught it early. Your vet may also be able to suggest ways to make your dog’s life easier in the cold weather and as they age.
2. Make sure your senior dog has the right diet
Elderly animals have different nutritional needs to puppies and adult dogs, so make sure that you check which food you should be giving your dog. Choose a formulation suitable for a senior pet – these are usually lower in calories to help prevent them putting on excess weight. Some specialist diets are used to manage health problems too – check with your vet before changing your dog’s diet.
You may wonder if offering supplements to your ageing dog is necessary. Most vets feel that adding supplements as a routine is unnecessary and that it’s better to make sure your older dog has all the minerals and vitamins he or she needs via their diet. That said, your vet may suggest adding supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which support joint health and help with arthritis. However, make sure you speak to your vet before adding supplements to your dog's diet.
3. How to keep dogs warm in winter
Like us, dogs feel the cold in winter. As your dog ages, they may slow down and need less exercise, so they won’t be getting warm from all that running about. This means that when walking dogs in winter, you’ll need to think about how to help them stay warmer.
Items that can help you keep dogs warm in winter include:
- A padded coat or jumper; some dog breeds need this more than others, especially those with short coats
- A waterproof coat for rainy days
- Booties to protect their paws from extreme weather such as cold, snow and ice, as well as the salt and grit that’s spread on roads (this can sting your dog’s paws)
4. Help your senior dog stay warm and cosy at home
Your dog is sure to have a favourite spot around the house and you may notice that they spend more time sleeping there as they get older. It may be time to upgrade their bedding for something warmer, especially if your home is draughty or they sleep in a colder corner.
There are lots of beds available, so look for one that’s suitable for your dog’s size and make sure it’ll be big enough. You might wish to consider getting a mattress with plenty of padding or even memory foam to protect those ageing joints. Many dog beds have removable pads or waterproof protection, which is handy should your dog become incontinent.
5. Help your senior dog get enough exercise in winter
Your dog may be slowing down but they still need to be exercised regularly to help them keep at a healthy weight and in good condition. Dogs naturally want to get outdoors for a walk, so head outside, even if it’s simply a loop around the block.
If you can’t get out so much, discover ways to keep your dog active, physically and mentally. This can help them stay contented and lengthen their life, too. Create a play area at home where you can interact with your dog. Activities include playing with toys and doing puzzles, making a den and playing hide and seek with treats.
Speak to your vet about the health of your senior dog if you notice any of the following:
- They seem less able to move or have stiff joints
- They’re off their food
- They’ve lost weight
- They’re drinking more than usual
- Their breath smells
- You discover a lump
- They have a cough
- They seem to have problems going to the loo or they have any discharges
As with any potential health problems, always consult your vet if you have any concerns about your senior dog’s health.
Do you have an elderly dog? What tips for making their life easier do you find helpful? Share your ideas and tips on social media using #PethoodStories.