5 Steps to Care for Your Elderly Dog
Someone once said, “The only thing wrong with dogs is that they can’t live forever.”
It's difficult to see your best friend aging, but even when dogs reach their golden years there are still a lot of opportunities for great times together, a lot to be enjoyed at, perhaps, a lower level of energy.
Brooklyn Bark Dog Walkers encourages you to take these steps to keep your senior dog in the best of health for maximum longevity.
Optimal nutrition. This is important through a dog’s life but becomes more so as he ages. Choose food that lists quality products in its ingredients, providing all the vitamins and minerals your dog needs. For starters, look for the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) logo which assures you that what is claimed as the food’s ingredients indeed are the ingredients and that the food is nutritionally valid for all life stages. If your dog is not on a prescription diet, then there is no reason to switch him to a special “senior” food. If you are concerned about weight gain (aren’t we all?) because he is less active, cut back on his portions and switch to a low calorie treat. Keep track of your dog's weight to keep it in a healthy range. Also, consider adding supplements to help with specific issues, such as glucosamine for arthritis. Dr. Chris at North Slope Veterinary reminds us that older dogs do better with "low impact". In other words, if you can walk pup on grass rather than concrete, do it. If pup has trouble on your hardwood floors, consider putting down yoga matting - available by the roll from Amazon. Non-weight bearing excercise is excellent, swimming being a favorite for most dogs. As the weather gets colder and our wonderful warm-weather swimming opportunities go away, consider a hop over to Water4Dogs in TriBeCa. There you have the added advantage of a knowledgable and experienced staffto help you address specific problems.
Keep your friend's mind and body active. While your dog may be happy to lay around all day, getting him moving to whatever extent he is able will keep him healthier. A new toy, treat or puzzle will also keep him thinking and active, essential for longevity. More drastically, consider adopting a younger dog or a pup. We’ve seen many a senior have new life breathed into him when a youngster is around. Often, in the beginning, the senior dog will not be happy to have his extended snooze time disturbed. But something will happen and suddenly you will see him playing with his new friend like a much younger dog.
Keep those teeth clean. It may seem like a minor issue, but teeth and gum issues can have a detrimental effect on a dog's overall health. Be sure to clean them regularly. As with humans, there has been a link shown between oral hygiene and heart disease. If you can brush your pup’s teeth, that’s a terrific start. You can also offer him dental treats such as Greenies and other opportunities to chew if he’s interested. Of course, a dental cleaning at the vet is the surest way to avoid potential gum disease. But that requires anesthesia, something that your vet may hesitate doing for an older citizen. Discuss the pros and cons and make a decision together.
Step up vet visits. Once a year is not enough for an elderly pet. It's important to make an appointment every 6 months, or even more often for chronic health issues, to make sure your furry friend is as healthy as possible. Now, more than ever, having a good vet whom you visit regularly is key.
Improvise and don't hesitate to call in reinforcements. There will come a time when your pet may not be as independent as he once was. He may need to go out more often due to age as well as to medications; he may require special care such as administration of medication or help walking up or down stairs, or more attention when you're gone. This is part of aging. Rejoice that you have had him in your life this long.
The golden years can, indeed, be golden. You and pup have grown together and have an understanding that is wordless and deep. Take a lesson from him and live in the moment, for these are those wonderful moments you’ve achieved with chewed shoes, stained rugs and conversations about inappropriate barking. Pup and you have earned these special years. Savor them together and savor them wisely.