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7 ways to care for an older dog

Make their golden years as comfortable and relaxing as can be

7 ways to care for an older dog
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While we don't like to think of our dog getting older, there are certain things which can help to slow down their cognitive decline. From a balanced diet to regular moderate exercise and mental stimulation, these can all help to keep dogs healthy right into old age.

"Like us, dogs and cats are capable of having senior moments and developing health issues. Some pet owners put this down to old age rather than realising that there may be something they can do about it," Korina Stephens, RVN from Nutravet, says.

"During colder months especially, older pets may need extra support. Some common signs of this can include senile moments around the home, getting lost in the home or not recognising family members. They may also lag behind on walks due to joint stiffness or struggle to jump up on furniture. If you are worried about your pet, be sure to speak to your vet who is best placed to offer advice and support with regards to their breed and age."

According to The Kennel Club, these are some of the things your dog might experience as they age:

    • Reduced appetite
    • Increased drinking (which may indicate diabetes, liver/kidney failure)
    • Bad breath
    • Losing weight
    • Lumps or bumps
    • Lethargy
    • Exercise intolerance
    • Increased tiredness

    7 ways to care for an older dog...

    1. Keep them active

    While every dog needs plenty of exercise to stay healthy, the Blue Cross recommends that an older dog should be exercised little and often. They may be slowing down, but senior dogs still need regular exercise and mental stimulation.

    Nutravet advises: "Walking your senior dog will help to prevent weight gain and aid their cognitive function by keeping their mind active. Walks should be shorter but are integral to prevent weight gain, which could lead to stiff joints."

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    2. Increase levels of nutrition

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    Weight gain and obesity can be more common in older pets, especially those who tend to move less due to their muscles and bones weakening. Keep an eye open in your supermarket for pet food designed for senior pets. Packed with nutrients to give them strength, these will have fewer calories, reduced fat and more fibre.

    The Blue Cross explain that you can always speak with your veterinary surgeon about how to improve their diet. "Advances in research over the last few years mean that specially formulated diets are available to help manage medical conditions associated with ageing, but these should be used under veterinary advice, and all dietary changes should be made gradually," they say.

    3. Keep up with grooming

    As dogs age, taking care of them can become more difficult. To keep them happy and healthy, try to keep up with their regular grooming routine. Nutravet say: "As your pet ages joint stiffness may prevent them from being able to groom themselves, so be sure to keep up with their normal routine.

    "As your elderly pet can become less active, their nails can get long and could cause ingrown nails. If you don't feel confident trimming your dog or cat's nails, consult your vet for help and advice. Be careful not to trim too far, as you could cut part of the nail that contains sensitive blood vessels and nerves."

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    4. Joint care

    If you want your older dog to have a long and happy life, make sure you pay close attention to their joints. While younger pets can experience joint stiffness, this is more common in senior dogs and can make things uncomfortable at times.

    To ease their pain, joint supplements can be used to help improve joint health in dogs with arthritis. If you speak to your vet, they will be able to advise you on the best options.

    5. Senility

    "As pet's age they can lose cognitive function," say the team. "If your pet starts having accidents around the house or getting disorientated, it could be a sign that they have cognitive dysfunction. Keeping an eye on your pet's behaviour is integral to spotting these signs early."

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    6. Reduce their stress levels

    Unlike younger pups, older dogs might not be able to handle stressful situations very well. To keep them happy, ensure you reduce any stress at home by giving them a relaxing spot to sit, keep noise levels down and prevent any unruly behaviour that may make them feel anxious.

    7. Put their bed in the perfect spot

    Provide your elderly dog with a soft comfy bed, preferably somewhere warm, quiet and accessible without climbing stairs.

    The team add: "They should have close access to the garden as your older pet's toilet habits may change with age and they might have to go more often. For smaller dogs make sure they have extra bedding during winter months to keep them warm and extra bedding can be used as padding for their joints."

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