Taking care of your aging dog - Salt Lake Animal Physical Therapy
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Taking care of your aging dog

Dogs are givers! A source of limitless joy that never comes short of it. But as they grow old, they need some of it back – some in love and rest in the form of selfless care. But how do we deal with the many health issues and aging bones? Well, here is a short read about how you can make your aging friend’s life better with simple methods. 

As dogs transition from their playful early years to their older years, they undergo several changes. From a reduced appetite for games to a much weaker immune system and bones. And just like humans, they become prone to various diseases. Most dogs develop one or more of several diseases such as cataracts, kidney dysfunction, liver dysfunction, arthritis, etc.

But not all dogs experience aging at the same pace. Aging in dogs depends on their breed and unique traits. Where small canines are considered old at 10-11 years of age, medium-sized dogs such as Labrador Retrievers are considered elder at 8 to 10 years. Larger dog breeds at 5-6 years of age.

And just like the process of aging is different breeds-wise, different dogs experience distinct signs of aging. 

Listed below are the various changes that you may notice as your dog ages:

  • Low energy
  • Weakness
  • Chronic pain
  • Depressed mood
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Increasing weight
  • Restriction in movement
  • Failing to perform routine tasks such as climbing stairs
  • Reduced hearing and eyesight
  • Stiffness in joints
If you are concerned that your dog is showing theses signs, then you can schedule a free discovery visit to have your dog assessed by a certified canine rehab therapist.

Here are some ways to take care of your aging dog

1. Regular exercise – It is vital to keep your dog fit, active, and at a healthy weight. People often believe that it is normal for a dog to slow down as they grow older, but it is seldom true. If dogs do not exercise, they lose their muscle mass which plays a significant role in their metabolism. It speeds up their aging process. Lack of exercise can also contribute to musculoskeletal issues such as arthritis which is quite common in senior dogs. Therefore it is necessary to maintain age-appropriate activities to keep your dog from gaining extra weight and becoming obese. Take your dog for short walks and engage them in light exercises that do not involve running or jumping. If you are concerned about your dogs’ health and safety of exercise please consult your veterinarian first.

2. Age-appropriate diet – With growing age and decreasing energy levels, your dogs are more likely to develop obesity. Keep their reduced mobility and activity in mind and adjust their diet accordingly. Their bones also become weaker, putting them at risk of bone and muscle problems. A balanced, nutritious diet that is low in calories is ideal.

3. Regular check-ups – As dogs grow older, their immune system gets weaker, readily welcoming all sorts of diseases. You must take your dog for routine blood work and overall health check-ups to monitor their kidney and liver functions. Visiting the veterinarian at least twice a year is essential.

4. Investing in orthopedic or heating beds – Aging affects the dogs’
joints and muscles, making the muscles stiff and the joints brittle. Orthopedic beds are a great way to provide your senior dog the much-needed comfort. It reduces their body pain and helps increase mobility. You can also invest in heating beds. They come with a built-in heater that adjusts the heat according to your dog’s body temperature. It is especially beneficial for dogs who struggle with stiffness, arthritis pain, or other musculoskeletal conditions.

5. Adjusting the home environment – As aging affects the strength of dogs’ muscles and bones, often leading to problems such as IVDD, ACL injuries, or arthritis, they struggle to carry their weight and perform the activities that they once could handle with ease. Covering the slippery and hard floors with soft rugs and carpets can help your senior dog freely roam around the home without feeling any pressure or pain.

6. Spending quality time with them – As dogs grow older, they deal with various health concerns. Moreover, as their energy levels fall, they struggle to participate in their favorite activities and are often in pain. Spending some time with them and showering them with extra care will help elevate their mood and keep them happy.

7. Dental care – Dental diseases are a common problem in senior dogs. As dogs cannot express themselves, their dental issues and pain often remain unnoticed. For this reason, they simply adapt themselves to discomfort and pain. Therefore, you must take your senior dog for regular dental check-ups to prevent them from catching diseases and help maintain oral hygiene. It’s a good practice to wash their teeth daily to keep them healthy and to offer them dental treats from time to time.

8. Regular grooming – Aging dogs are prone to dry and flaky skin while their fur starts to lose luster and becomes dull. To prevent their skin from becoming itchy and irritating, brush your senior dog regularly. Ensure no tangles and use natural shampoos and ingredients guaranteed to nourish their skin.

9. Taking your dog for physical therapy – Regular visits to the physical therapist for Canine Physical Therapy can be highly beneficial to senior dogs. Physical Therapy uses hydrotherapy, laser, cold therapy, massage, acupuncture, focused exercise etc., to help your aging dog maintain mobility and weight. It also helps alleviate any pain and allows them to have a good quality of life.

Finally, the most important thing is to be there for your dog when they need you. Aging can be troublesome for dogs, and adjusting to it can take a toll on their emotional health. However, with proper care, affection and regular physical therapy, you can help ease your furry friend’s transition to old age.