How to Care for Aging Dogs

Dogs and cats may not live as long as their human companions, but they age just like other living creatures. Cats’ and dogs’ rate of growth and maturity is accelerated compared to human beings’, and pet owners should know it’s never too soon to make plans for keeping pets comfortable as they grow older.
Pet owners may find signs of aging more noticeable in dogs than cats, as cats tend to be less active in the daytime than dogs. Canines that were once rambunctious and energetic can sometimes lose their zeal as the years tick by. Knowing what to expect of aging dogs can help owners prepare for the years ahead.

Nutrition
Aging dogs need vitamins, minerals, fats, and fuel. The right pet diet can help dogs remain active and playful as long as possible. Take the time to speak with your dog’s veterinarian about brands or food formulations that may help your dog live with certain conditions. Vets may suggest foods that are easily digestible or that include essential fatty acids for cognition and a healthy coat. Foods may need to be low in calories to help prevent weight gain from reduced activity.

Veterinary Care
Geriatric dogs may require more frequent veterinary visits than younger animals so any potential health conditions can be discovered before they escalate. Expect senior pet exams, which may include bloodwork, to be more in-depth, says the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.
Discuss any mental and behavioral issues your dog has exhibited with the vet, as dogs can show signs of senility as they get older. The AVMA says studies conducted in the early 1990s were the first to identify brain changes in older dogs that were similar to brain changes seen in humans with Alzheimer’s disease. The doctor may recommend tasks to keep dogs engaged and more cognizant.

Arthritis
Aging dogs may suffer the aches and pains associated with arthritis. Large dog breeds are especially vulnerable to joint diseases. Take note if your pet seems to be walking stiffly or having difficulty sitting down. Increased irritability may also be a sign your pet is in pain.
The vet may suggest nutritional supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as pain relief medication to help. An orthopedic bed, frequent rub downs of stiff joints, and cozy spots to stretch out can help, too.

Dental Cleanings
Dental care is important throughout a pet’s life, but even more so as he or she ages. Tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis, which can cause bacteria to get into the dog’s bloodstream, potentially leading to internal illness. Brushing your dog’s teeth and providing teeth-cleaning chews and toys can help. You also may need to schedule thorough teeth cleanings at the vet’s office.
Pets’ needs change as they get older. Dog owners should keep watchful eyes on their aging pooches to ensure man’s best friend stays happy through his or her golden years.