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How To Care For Older Dogs

How to care for an older dog

A lot of pet owners will swear their dogs get a lot more like them over time. And like us, even the most active of dogs slow down with age. There’s no need to worry, though. With the proper care and attention, you can help ensure your beloved pet’s senior years are full of happiness and health.

When does a dog get old?

Different dog breeds age at different rates. As a rule, bigger dog breeds tend to age faster and smaller breeds, the reverse. For example, giant breeds like a Saint Bernard usually reach seniority by 6-years-old and smaller breeds like Border Terriers don’t generally reach old age until 10-years-old.

Choosing a diet appropriate for your dogs age

As a dog’s body slows down, it starts using less energy. This means their tendency to deposit fat increases and so does the likelihood of weight gain and related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

When your dog gets older and less active, it’s a good idea to start weighing them every couple of months. This way you can accurately judge whether your dog’s weight is steadily rising, and if you need to reduce their food intake accordingly.

Recent advances in research and scientifically developed nutrition means you can now buy special food to help manage medical conditions associated with aging dogs. However, you should always consult your dog’s vet before introducing any significant dietary changes.

As your dog gets older though, we do recommend that you switch to a dog food specially formulated to provide the correct nutrition and protein for them. Our senior dog food is completely natural, and has a reduced oil content to help reduce the likelihood of older dogs rapidly gaining weight - as they would with a regular dog food.

Exercising older dogs

Joint function deteriorates with age in most dogs, making arthritis a common problem. Tailoring a specific exercise regime to your dog’s needs can help alleviate the symptoms of arthritis at the same time as keeping them fit and lean.

Ideally, you should adapt your dog’s exercise to their size and weight. For instance, larger dogs need more exercise and longer walks, whereas smaller dogs are better suited to a short but brisk walk than a long trek.

If you’re looking to get your dog back into shape after gaining weight, it’s a good idea to start gradually, before increasing the intensity of their exercise steadily. Once again, it’s sensible to consult your vet before making any significant changes to the way you exercise your dog.

Be your dogs dentist

Gum disease and mouth infections become more common in older dogs. Mouth infections can also spread to the vital organs, causing more serious complications.

Regularly using special dog toothpaste and a soft brush to clean your dog’s teeth can help to stop the build up of damaging plaque. When brushing, gently hold your dog’s jaw open and slide the brush under the lips and along each tooth, starting slowly and gradually getting faster. If you would like more information on taking care of your dog's teeth, take a look at our guide here.

Groom them regularly

As well as being a sign of old age, a greying coat can indicate that your dog has dry skin. Regular grooming sessions will help ensure your dog’s coat stays soft and shiny. It also provides the opportunity to check for lumps, bumps and flea bites.

If you do spot flea bites, the best course of action is to put all your dog’s bedding, collar and any winter jackets straight into the wash. Then, use de-flea treatments throughout your house and car.

As prevention is better than a cure, giving your dog regular anti-flea and tick treatments will help stop the problem from occurring or reoccurring. For more on treating fleas and other parasites, take a look at our guide here.

Making life more comfortable

The older a dog gets, the more they tend to appreciate a routine. So, make sure their water bowl is always kept in the same place, keep dinner times regular and, if possible, walk them at the same times every day.

Older dogs with stiff joints or arthritis might benefit from soft bedding, extra towels, cushions or even a special memory foam dog bed. And if their eyesight starts to fade, try not to move your furniture around too much, increasing the chances of them bumping into objects unexpectedly.

Finally, if you notice any changes in your dog, it’s best to take them to the vets for a check-up straight away; catching the early signs of dog illness massively increases the chances of successful treatment.

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