One of the sad realities of being a dog owner is that your dog will probably reach old age long before you do. Ageing dogs will need a little more attention but can still have a healthy, enjoyable and fulfilling life in their final years.
The most important thing you can do for your dog is take good care of them before they get old. Regular visits to the vet will help catch any medical conditions early that could become pronounced in old age.
Good dental care throughout your dog's life will mean that your dog will be much less likely to suffer from gingivitis and gum disease. Few people realise how quickly plaque and tartar can build up on a dog's teeth so a good dental regime is vital.
Regular exercise will ensure your dog is still in good shape as he begins to age and is less likely to become overweight.
Age related ailments
In old age, dogs suffer from many of the same ailments that people do, so many older dogs will be prone to arthritis or general muscle stiffness. You can help by giving them a little time to loosen up before they take their walk. Providing your dog with a nice soft dog bed will also make getting up and lying down a little easier.
A dog bed will also provide your dog with some extra warmth when asleep. As dog's age they lose some ability to control their body temperature. Be mindful of leaving your dog anywhere that they could overheat or be too cold.
Your dog's skin and hair may suffer as his body produces less of the natural oils that help keep it supple and moisturised. Continuing to brush your dog will help stimulate the skin to produce it's own oily secretion. You should also talk to your vet about a shampoo or skin treatment that will help moisturise the skin and soothe any irritation .
A dog's hearing or sight may start to fail with old age. At first, this can be hard to detect. All dogs is familiarise themselves with their surroundings and will adjust gradually as they lose the use of their senses. If your dog is losing his sight, avoid making any radical changes to the layout of the house. An old dog can be quite adept at finding his way around by smell and memory. You may want to restrict your dog's access to stairs because these can be dangerous if he can't see well.
Hard of hearing
If your dog is losing his hearing you may have to start communicating with hand signals instead of voice commands. If this wasn't part of your dog's initial training it may be time for a little refresher course. Contrary to popular belief, old dogs can learn new tricks and they'll enjoy the attention and mental stimulation.
As your dog's muscles weaken he may become incontinent. Pay extra attention to your dog because he will need to be let out a little more promptly and frequently.
As dogs age they require less calories to be well nourished and they are more susceptible to gaining weight because of their decreased physical activity. Talk to your vet about finding a dog food that is appropriate for your senior dog and will help him to age gracefully.