I remember when I got my dog, he was a 9 weeks old pup and I could hold him in my hands.
Even though he is a senior dog now, he is still a happy bunny dog that he has always been. He has no problem keeping up with very young dogs and, in some cases, even giving them tough competition in running and jumping.
Even if my dog is maintaining a good level of athleticism, signs of him getting older are evident. Back in Italy, I have a family dog that has just turned 17 years old. She exhibits all the signs of an old dog but still, she is holding fast.
In general, when our dogs get old there comes a series of changes in them that we need to take into account to provide them with the most pleasant life we can offer.
Let’s face it, your dog is not growing younger. So the older he gets the higher the chances of possible physical and health problems are for him.
Dogs, like many other animals, are good at hiding physical problems and pain. This is a survival strategy as weak individuals are the first target of predators. Even within the pack, other dogs will take advantage of a sick or weak dog. Because of that, making sure to check your dog’s health regularly is more important than when your dog was younger.
Keep an eye on your dog’s behaviour. A sudden change in her, such as a lack of appetite, unwillingness to go for a walk or to be touched, sudden lethargy and excessive drinking are few of the red flags that suggest it’s time to visit the vet.
With age, a dog can become more at risk of arthritis, heart, liver and kidney problems. It can develop diabetes as well as testicular, prostate, breast cancer and uterine infection (but if your dog is spayed or neutered, you have nothing or less to worry about).
Your dog’s digestive system will change with years. As your dog becomes less active, he can put up some extra kilos. If that is the case, provide your dog with fewer calories and easily digestible senior dog food. Anyway, to figure out a correct diet for your dog, it is a good idea to consult your vet.
An elderly dog can become incontinent. Therefore, she may not be able to hold it for too long. A good idea is to allow the dog to the garden more often and provide more frequent walks. In any case, do not be angry if some accidents happen in the house. Probably “the crime scene” would be around the main or back door. That is a sign that the dog wanted to go out and was unable to hold it. Please, be understanding of her situation.
As the dog gets older his energy level goes down. Consider reviewing his walking routine and make changes according to his needs.
Consider that the dog’s senses will decrease. So expect poor vision, hearing and smell from him and do not get frustrated if he becomes less responsive to your commands. Anyway, if your dog has poor vision and hearing, be extra careful with him. Due to the worsening of his senses, it may have higher chances to get lost or to run into danger.
Be more careful when approaching an elderly dog. Because of her poor sight and hearing, your dog may not realize that you are approaching her. Therefore, you can make a sudden appearance that may scare the dog.
Young dogs may irritate your dog. As previously said, the older the dog is the more physical problems and poorer senses she may have. So, be understanding if your dog doesn’t like other dogs bothering her. If the situation is getting too stressful, consider taking her elsewhere.
Even if your dog is “slowing down”, keep his mind young. Play games that will mentally stimulate him or teach him new tricks.
In conclusion, your elderly dog will need extra attention and a change of his routine, yet this is not an excuse to accept misbehaviour. There is a tendency to slack off discipline and house rules between owners of dogs that are old or with physical problems. This approach can become a fertile ground for behavioural problems.
Acknowledge your dog’s age and problems and adapt yourself to fit his situation. But at the same time, give correction and guidance to the dog and always expect a good conduct.
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Also, if you like the topic of dogs, please check my book ‘Before You Get A Dog’ by Simone Burani. You will find the essential knowledge written in simple language to have a great time with your pet.