Is caring for an elderly dog the same as caring for a puppy or a young dog? Do they all require the same exercise, the same feeding, and same amount of nutrition? How can I take better care of my dog during his adult years and make sure that he lives his full life?
A dog’s lifespan varies depending on the breed. Toy breeds usually have a shorter lifespan than regular small breeds. Small breeds usually live longer than large breeds. Some Terriers live and an average of 15 years and some even reach 20. And because large breeds have a shorter lifespan, they also tend to age quicker than the other two breeds. For instance, Great Danes are rather old once they reached their eighth or ninth years of age and quite a few of them live past 12 years old.
There are two common signs of old age that occur and are the same for most dogs; their hair turning gray around the head and especially near the ears and muzzle; and weight loss.
Here are some tips on how to properly feed your elderly dog and make sure that he is getting the proper amount of nutrition that is required for his age:
- When giving your dog a home-cooked diet, medium fat cuts or chunks of meat are the best meal you can give him.
- As long as your dog has a good appetite, make sure he is getting enough food, given that elderly dogs usually have a better appetite than puppies and younger dogs.
- Your mature dog needs food that is easy to digest such as fish and poultry.
- Ensure that drinking water is available at all times.
- Keep in mind the importance of giving him extra vitamins such as a bone meal for calcium and cod liver oil for Vitamin D. Yeast preparations are rich in B Vitamins and minerals that are good for mature, elderly dogs with weak livers. Be careful not to over supplement.
- Adding fat such as lard, chicken or turkey fat to a lean, elderly dog’s diet can supply him with extra calories. You can add one teaspoon for small dogs and about four teaspoons for larger dogs.
- Use mineral oil and/or bran to relieve constipation.
Elderly Dog Care
Elderly dogs tend to lose weight mostly because of failing and/or weakening of the liver and kidneys. These conditions are usually accompanied by an increase in appetite as well as increased thirst. As soon as you detect weight loss in your dog, it is advisable to take him to the vet for a check-up. This should be done once every three to six months. If promptly administered, anabolic steroids can slow down this process of physical deterioration.
But while chronic kidney failure does not usually cause pain in your dog, it often develops into acute kidney failure which can cause severe abdominal pain. Symptoms of acute kidney failure include lack of appetite, bad breath, vomiting, abdominal pain, and not urinating. Consult your vet if you notice any of the symptoms described.
- Caring for your elderly dog’s teeth: If you are concerned about anything that pertains to your elderly dog’s teeth, discuss the matter with your vet. Elderly dogs may not be able to chew bones any longer, so it’s very important to brush his teeth once or twice a week. But regardless of brushing his teeth on a regular basis and giving him chewing toys during his younger years, tartar is still likely to build up and may need to be removed under anesthetic.
- Caring for your elderly dog’s eye and ear problems: It is natural for a dog to get his eyesight and hearing weakened as he gets old. This process can be slowed down by being gentle with your dog. Try not to startle him with sudden loud noises. To help with his weakening eyesight, speak to him frequently and avoid moving the furniture around more than needed. You can still take him out for walks; just make sure that you stay very close to him.
- Bladder and Bowel Problems: It’s common for elderly male dogs to get constipated due to prostate problems. Other dogs suffer from more or less lost over their bladder because of the condition called cystitis. Tumors in the anus may also cause bowel loss control. These conditions may be painful and can upset your dog. If any of these conditions occur and becomes regular, discuss it with your vet.
- Bone and Joint Problems: Old dogs frequently experience regular stiffness that is linked to arthritis in their joints. This condition is more common in large breeds and overweight dogs. For this type of problem, your vet may prescribe pain relievers to ease your dog’s pain.