It’s hard to think about the dog who used to be a fluffy, awkward puppy getting older and growing frailer, but old age doesn’t have to be difficult for your dog or for you. While your dog might not have the same strength and energy he used to, he can still enjoy his old age. Seniority provides a chance for you and your dog to spend quiet, relaxing time together, and old age doesn’t mean your dog has to give up all of his favorite activities.
Here are 5 things you can do to help your aging dog:
Prevent Bone and Joint Damage
Hip dysplasia, muscle injuries, and joint problems are the most common ailments dogs face in old age. These problems can dramatically limit your dog’s quality of life, make movement extremely difficult, and when left untreated, cause broken bones and even paralysis. Give your dog a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement daily to strengthen their bones. As your dog begins to slow down, avoid strenuous activity, but continue to take them for regular walks. Moderate exercise improves bone and joint health in both dogs and people.
Get Veterinary Care
People are often afraid to go to their own doctors when they notice symptoms of illness, and they are often even worse with their canine companions. But quality veterinary care can help your dog live a long and happy life, and can help you detect many illnesses while they are still treatable. Even if you get a terminal diagnosis, good veterinary care will help you manage your dog’s pain and medications such as Frontline dog flea control can help protect your dog from some of the most common and more dangerous animal illnesses.
Make Your House Accessible
Older dogs, just like older people, require an accessible home that minimizes the risk of falls. If your dog loves to climb into bed or into the car with you, purchase a set of doggy stairs to make the climb easier. Make sure that screen doors never clam on your dog’s hips, and monitor your dog carefully when he’s going up and down steps or walking on slippery surfaces. Adding a rug to your kitchen floor will help prevent your dog from falling and becoming injured.
Feed Your Dog a Healthy Diet
Diet is one of the best predictors of dog health, and a balanced diet becomes even more important as your dog ages. Dogs need large quantities of protein and should not have large volumes of fillers such as cereal or preservatives. The first ingredient listed on dog food labels is the ingredient present in the largest proportion, so make sure this ingredient is meat.
Give Your Dog Attention
A strong human-dog bond helps improve both dog and human health. Spend time relaxing with your dog every day. This eases both her stress and yours and, even for dogs who are not in good health, can improve circulation and blood pressure. Spending time together reduces stress, and stress is strongly correlated with ill health in both people and dogs. Thus the time you spend together is a step toward good health for both of you!
Perhaps most importantly, know your dog and their needs. If you stay in tune with your dog as they age, you’ll be better equipped to assist them through the process, and more likely will notice if they need additional help or care. A daily petting session can be used to check for parasites and skin problems, and your daily walks can help you monitor for any difficulties your dog has with moving around.
Photo by jjgwarren/Flickr