Care and Safety Tips for Senior Dogs

Dogs are delightful companions and part of the family. They're loyal, affectionate, and they love unconditionally. Unfortunately, dogs don't live forever. Pets age faster than humans, and as they get older, they develop age-related problems caused by major changes in their bodies. Because of this, dogs have difficulty going through their daily activities, such as eating and moving around.

When are dogs considered senior?

When are dogs considered senior

The widespread belief that a dog year is equivalent to seven human years doesn't apply for all dogs. Factors including environment, genetics, nutrition, and weight play a significant role in how fast they age. Large to giant dogs may be considered seniors at five years old, while small to medium dogs are only teenagers at this time.

What to Expect

A lot of major changes in behavior and health may happen as your dog ages, and it's important to address these concerns before they turn into life-threatening diseases. Confusion, anxiety or aggression, a shift in sleep patterns, and other behavioral changes are also common among senior dogs.

What to expect from Senior Dogs

  • Senility and slowing down - The aging symptoms of pets are pretty much the same as in humans. Cognitive dysfunction or senility may cause older dogs to get lost or forget how to greet family members. Meanwhile, avoiding activities like playing and running may be red flags for arthritis or muscle atrophy. Joint pains and mild loss of muscle mass are common reasons why older dogs can no longer move as quickly as before.
  • Loss of sight or hearing - Aging dogs may lose their sense of hearing, making them unresponsive when called. And just like humans, dogs can also slowly lose their sight and develop eye conditions like cataracts. If your dog has vision loss, avoid rearranging your furniture so he can move around the house according to how his body remembers it.
  • Weight changes - With ailments taking over his body little by little, your dog may start eating less and drinking more, resulting in sudden weight loss. On the other hand, as the dog becomes less active, he uses less energy, paving the way for increased fat deposit. The resulting weight gain may increase the risk of arthritis and heart disease.
  • Restlessness or anxiety - As dogs become more restless, they develop a weaker immune system that prevents their bodies from fighting infections. Increased anxiety may also result from changing sleep cycles.

Caring for Older Dogs

With help from their humans, senior dogs can lead a happy and active life despite the many changes in their health. Follow these tips to reduce the effects of old age:

Caring for Older Dogs

  • Regular vet visits - Symptoms of age-related diseases are easily overlooked, especially if you have no idea what to look out for. Check-ups and preventive healthcare exams are crucial during this period in your dog's life. Most health issues of senior dogs can be treated if caught early so it's recommended to visit the vet every six months.
  • Vaccinations - To improve your dog's quality of life, have him vaccinated once every three years. Senior dogs need regular boosters, and flea and de-worming treatments.
  • Mental stimulation - Keep your pet on his toes by engaging him in interactive play. Food puzzles that prevent dogs from getting food until they're solved help stimulate your pet's brain activity.

Mental Stimulation for Senior Dogs

  • Age-appropriate diet - Older dogs require a lower calorie intake as their metabolism slows down. Fresh vegetables and smaller food portions are great, but take care not to give him anything toxic like grapes and raisins. Ask your vet about the right diet for your dog based on his age, lifestyle, and specific needs.
  • Watch the weight - Limit his calorie intake if your pet is not very active. The more overweight your dog, the more stressed his body becomes. Ask your veterinarian for a diet and exercise plan that your dog needs.
  • Exercise - It's very important for pets to keep moving. Regular exercise not only maintains healthy joints and muscles, it also helps your dog feel young and keep fit. Start by taking him on short walks, and then gradually increase the distance. Just remember that what's normal for a big dog may be too long and tiring for a small pooch. Know when it's time to stop and rest for water. Don't stay out too long if it's hot or humid outside.

Dental Care for Senior Dogs

  • Dental care - Dental diseases not only cause difficulty in eating, they may also damage your dog's organs if bacteria get into the bloodstream. Senior dogs need proper dental care from vets or regular brushing. You can also keep your pet's teeth and gums healthy through toys and dental treats that keep their teeth clean.
  • Keep them warm and dry - Unlike the young ones, older dogs may not have the ability to regulate their body temperature. Make sure that your dog is warm and dry if it's cold, and that he's cool and has access to plenty of water if it's hot.
  • Lots and lots of TLC - Dogs want the simplest things, and often a good belly rub makes them happy. For them, physical contact means mighty love. As dogs get older, they will start needing therapeutic massages too, especially when joint pains begin affecting their lifestyle.

Safety Tips

Safety and security are crucial for senior dogs that are at risk of developing health problems, blindness, and deafness.

Safety Tips for Senior Dogs

  • Keep the floor clutter-free - Remove obstacles that may endanger your dog while he walks around the house. Keeping your home free from clutter helps reduce his anxiety, especially if he's starting to lose his vision. Make litter boxes accessible so your dog won't have to travel far to relieve himself.
  • Ramps and stairs - For dogs with arthritis or other joint problems, it is hard to walk, or even just lay down to rest. Make it easier for the senior dog to navigate by equipping your home with ramps. Carpets and rugs on hard surfaces will help him feel more comfortable getting around the house.
  • Orthopedic beds - To help your pet have a great sleep all the time, provide him with soft blankets and an orthopedic pet bed. He'll be more comfortable sleeping and getting up won't be as difficult.

Dogs in their twilight years need proper care and attention. Follow these safety and care guidelines to make the life of your best friend so much better.

 

Jennifer LutzJennifer Lutz is a loving pet owner and the home décor expert at www.christmastreemarket.com. For advice on how to keep your pets safe during the busy holidays, check out her thoughts here.

 

By Natalie Hennessy 6 days ago at 11:00 am 0 Comments

Did you know that simply owning a dog can make you healthier? Whereas non-dog owners walk an average of 168 minutes a week, dog parents walk an average of 300 minutes.

But this level of exercise is only scratching the surface. Your canine companion can help get you in better shape than any personal trainer or gym membership ever could. 

That’s because your dog is an ideal running partner.

Wayne

For starters, their bodies were designed for running:

  • Like most animals with four legs, dogs can cover short distances much faster than we humans can.
  • Dogs (including wolves and hyenas) are also built for long distances.  They can easily gallop at full speed for 10 to 15 minutes before breaking into a loose gait that carries them for miles and miles. According to Natural History Magazine, the only other animals to fall in this “long distance group” are horses, wildebeest, and of course, humans.

But it's not simply their physical design that makes dogs such excellent running partners. It's also their temperament. Dogs are loyal work companions who thrive on exercise. Put your dog to work, and watch your social bond deepen with each successive jog.

In fact, not providing your dog with sufficient tasks can lead to a number of behavioral problems, including restlessness and aggression. In the words of Runner’s World, “a tired dog is a good dog.”

And these are just the benefits for you. Your dog also receives any number of perks from regular exercise, including:

  • Weight control
  • Confidence (i.e. reduced fear)
  • Better digestion (and less constipation)
  • Better agility
  • Better circulation

Done correctly, regular jogging sessions are a win-win for everyone involved.  But how do you make sure you approach these outings correctly?

How to Get the Most Out Of Your Canine Running Relationship

Your dog is a natural runner. But before you begin training for that next marathon, you need to take stock of your dog’s needs, health and ability. Use the below tips to make the transition as smooth as possible:

1. Consider Your Dog's Age, Size, and Weight

Dogs are the most varied animal species on the planet. Some breeds are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, while other breeds are large enough to take down big game entirely on their own.

  • Chihuahuas can't cover as much ground as golden retrievers can. But larger dogs are more prone to joint complications such as arthritis. Respect the size of your dog and adjust your running schedule accordingly.
  • Flat-nosed dogs like pugs and bulldogs often have more difficulties breathing than breeds with longer snouts. 
  • Age is also an important factor. Older dogs don't have the same endurance levels as their younger counterparts. But puppies younger than 18 months still need time for their bones to fully knit.

These are things you need to monitor no matter what. If your dog doesn't fall into the Top 20 Running Breeds, you'll need to pay extra close attention.

2. Environmental Considerations

In addition to monitoring your dog's health, you also need to survey external factors like temperature and running surfaces:

  • Unlike humans, dogs don't sweat. In order to dissipate heat, canines pant.  But they're not very good at panting while running. If the temperature is too hot or humid, consider scaling down your run or putting your jog off for another day.
  • Hydration is also important. Because dogs don't sweat, they’re much better at retaining water. But you still need to give your dog a fresh drink before, during and after every session.
  • Dogs were designed for running, but not necessarily on pavement. Their pads can blister easily, and leftover debris can cause irritation even after the jog is over. If at all possible, try to run on turf, grass, sand or soil. And be sure to clean your dog’s paws with a warm, soapy rag after each run.

3. Off-Leash or On-Leash Jogging

Another important decision — should you keep your dog on the leash or off? 

On the leash may be the better option for legal reasons (depending on how lenient your city is about canine restraints). You also need to assess your dog's ability to obey commands. If he or she doesn't come when called, it's best to stay on leash.

Assuming your dog is well disciplined, going off leash allows it to explore and set its own pace.

The Most Important Dog Running Tip of All

Regardless of age, breed or health, it is important that you start small and then scale up. You have to ease into an exercise regimen that suits your dog’s needs and ability.

How do you know when you’re moving too quickly?  

Unfortunately, your dog will never complain of fatigue. Thus, it is your responsibility as the pet parent to watch for early warning signs, such as:

  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Anxiety or stubbornness
  • Abnormally heavy panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Signs of pain, stiffness or discomfort

If you're ever unsure about how to design an exercise schedule for your dog, don't hesitate to contact a veterinarian. Together, you can map out a manageable routine that keeps your dog in shape without putting his or her health in jeopardy.

 

Author Bio: Ashley Arnold is the both parent to her German Shepherd running partner and a world-class protection dog trainer for Wayne Simanovich Protection Dogs.

By Natalie Hennessy 12 days ago at 1:46 pm 0 Comments

Cats and dogs are generally well-behaved when it's just you and the family at home, but it's a completely different story when you're having guests over. Whether you're hosting a fancy dinner party or a casual backyard barbecue, pets can stir things up and stress out everyone involved. Read on for tips on how to wrangle your furry friend when you're entertaining guests.

What to do with your pets when you are entertaining

1. Advise guests ahead of time.

Advise guests ahead of time

Close friends and family may know about your pets, but for those who are visiting your home for the first time, a heads-up is appreciated. They'll probably find a poodle adorable, but some people are afraid of larger dogs. If you let them know in advance that you have a boisterous pup (and assure them that he's affectionate), they'll know what to expect.

2. Exercise them beforehand to tire them out.

Exercise them beforehand to tire them out

Play with your pets before the party so they can release all of their pent-up energy. Take the dogs out for a round of fetch and let the kitties chase that toy mouse around. By the time the guests arrive, your pets will be calmer and will probably be more interested in sleeping.

3. Consider putting them on a leash.

Consider putting them on a leash

If you know that your dog will make a run for the door as soon as it opens, consider putting him on a leash. This will keep him safe, even with the door constantly opening and closing as people start coming in. It also prevents him from jumping around and becoming too boisterous as you greet your guests.

 4. Pet-proof your party space.

Pet-Proof your party space

If your pets are allowed to roam, make sure that toxic food such as chocolate and nuts are out of their reach. Candles, tinsel, and ribbons can be harmful and potentially fatal when ingested, so take extra precaution when using these items for decoration. Keep breakable items like glasses and vases out of reach so that they don't accidentally knock them over.

5. Prepare a room where they can retreat into.

Prepare a room where they can retreat into

If your pets are used to other people and trained in basic commands (like "sit," "stay," and "heel"), then it's business as usual. But if they get nervous around strangers, it's better to have a room where they can stay during the party. Leave them some food and water, as well as their favorite toys. Check on them every now and then to make sure they're okay. This is also helpful in case you have guests who are afraid of dogs.

 

Pets are part of the family and you don't want to make them feel left out in their home, however, you also want to make your guests comfortable and at ease. Try these tips when you have a party so that everyone - you, your pets, and your guests - have a great time.

 

Jennifer LutzJennifer Lutz writes about home décor at blog.christmastreemarket.com. For more tips on throwing a successful party, check out her BBQ tips here.

 

By Natalie Hennessy 19 days ago at 2:00 pm 0 Comments