What are the changes that you should expect in a senior dog?
Dogs go through four distinct life stages: puppyhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Each of these stages is marked by milestones, limitations and special developments that are unique for each phase of a dog’s life.
To say that a dog’s needs won’t change when it finally enters old age is completely false. Though it is true that an old dog is still technically an adult canine, the needs of a senior dog are actually very different from the needs of a younger dog.
The life of a senior dog is marked by very big changes and as the owner, it’s your responsibility to know about these changes and adapt to them so that your dog will remain happy and healthy in your care.
In our last blog post we talked about the basic changes in a senior dog’s physical needs. We discovered that a senior dog needs to be examined by a veterinarian more frequently and that an older dog’s diet should also be prepared differently from now on.
In today’s blog post we are going to move forward and explore the other peculiar changes that you will eventually encounter as your adult dog transitions into old age.
Keep in mind that each dog is unique so your decisions regarding dog’s care should be based on what you observe and what your veterinarian advises you to do.
Today’s post will only show you the possible changes that you might come across, but it’s still up to you to determine your dog’s most urgent needs.
How does old age impact a dog’s activity level?
All animals tend to slow down when old age comes marching in.
Your dog is not exempt from this so expect your dog to become gradually less active as it begins to age. Your dog will also experience periods of physical weakness in the form of less flexibility and reduced muscle strength. I often help my old dogs get into the car when it’s time to visit the vet.
You will also notice that senior dogs are more likely to slip on smooth surfaces. Younger dogs are more agile and can also balance more quickly. The same cannot be said of senior dogs, especially the ones with joint inflammation issues such as arthritis.
What types of activities are best suited for senior dogs?
Generally speaking, older dogs won’t be able to keep up with younger and more agile adult dogs. This is probably the reason why elderly canines often leave behind or avoid contact with younger dogs as the excess energy of the young ones can leave a senior dog fatigued and achy all over.
If you are planning to acquire another dog, make sure that your elderly dog has a nice quiet place to itself. Don’t force your older dog to play with a puppy or adolescent dog as this might irritate the older dog.
Elderly dogs still need exercise with their pack leaders.
However, I wouldn’t recommend going on long walks with a senior dog as this type of activity might be too strenuous. Playtime in the backyard is a good exercise for older dogs and if you have a bowl of cool water nearby, a senior dog can play longer without feeling exhausted.
After playing or exercising with your dog, I would recommend nap time or quiet time for your pet. You have to create a routine where your older dog will retreat to his bed or spot to rest after each physical activity. Your dog may not like in the beginning but it will soon realize that frequent naps are just what the vet ordered.
What kind of environment is ideal for an elderly dog?
Elderly dogs still like to play with interesting toys so keep those chew toys coming! If there are other dogs at home make sure that the younger ones aren’t “borrowing” your senior’s toys too often. A senior dog with no toys is a sad pup indeed!
To keep your dog’s stress level down to a minimum, make sure that the noise level in and around the house is regulated as much as possible so your dog doesn’t get stressed. In the event that your pet becomes stressed from noise, redirect its behavior by playing a short game or by bringing it to a part of the house where the sound level is more bearable.