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Dogs are no different from people when it comes to aging. They get gray and white hair. They slow down. They may lose their hearing, develop stiff and achy joints, or forget a command or two.
A slew of senior dog products is available to help. But first you need to know what your aging dog's special needs are.
Here's everything you need to know about senior dog care, along with the top senior dog essentials you'll want to invest in.
Taking care of your dog's teeth and gums is critical to your dog's overall health. Gum disease isn't only painful. The bacteria from conditions like gingivitis can get into your dog's bloodstream and affect his heart, kidneys, and liver.
This can cause complications for an older dog with a weakened immune system or heart or kidney disease.
If your dog has never had professional teeth cleaning, ask your vet if that's appropriate for your dog.
Depending on how old your dog is, anesthesia may not be a safe option. If that's the case, you'll need to make cleaning your senior dog's teeth at home a regular part of his daily or weekly care. This can include brushing his teeth or wiping them down with a special solution. You can also give him gum-stimulation chew toys or dental care treats.
(Veterinarians do not recommend giving bones to senior dogs. Bones are usually too hard and can break your older dog's teeth.)
How do you know if your older dog is having a problem with his teeth? Warning signs to look for include bad breath, bleeding gums, decreased appetite, pawing at the mouth, disinterest in once-favorite chew toys, and dropping food during meals.
Keeping your dog's ears clean is an important piece of senior dog care. All dogs are at risk for ear infections, but the cumulative effects of ignoring your dog's ear care over time are more apparent with age. In the worst-case scenario, untreated ear infections can lead to hearing loss.
Ear care should start as soon as your dog joins the family, regardless of her age. The younger, the better but it's never too late to start.
You can clean your dog's ears using a product like Veterinary Formula Clinical Care's Ear Therapy For Dogs & Cats. (If you've never cleaned your dog's ears before, ask your vet to show you the proper method.)
Owners of geriatric dogs should also look for signs of hearing loss, a common occurrence in older dogs. Because the process is slow it can be tough to spot. Take your dog to the vet if you notice she's less responsive to commands, doesn't respond to her name anymore, or startles more easily than she used to.
Ear infections or a build up of wax can exacerbate age-related hearing loss, sometimes even speeding up the process. Yet another reason to keep your older dogs' ears clean.
Creaky and stiff joints. Arthritis. Both are conditions that can affect our aging dogs.
But with the right care and right senior dog products, you can help your aging dog feel better and get around more easily.
Joint care supplements, like Veterinary Formula Clinical Care's Ultimate Joint Health, can ease the effects of aging on your dog's joints. Loaded with fatty acids and glucosamine chondroitin, joint supplements reduce the inflammation that causes stiffness, pain, and arthritis.
Keeping your dog active is another senior dog essential. Muscles and joints that aren't used atrophy. That doesn't mean you need your geriatric dog to do backflips to catch a frisbee. But a walk or two a day can do wonders, even if it's just around the block.
On a related note, you need to keep your dog's nails trimmed as he gets older. Dogs alter the way they walk when their nails are too long, often putting more pressure on their joints in the process. If your older dog already has stiff joints or arthritis, this will compound the issue.
You may need to increase how often you trim your aging dog's nails. This is particularly true if your dog goes for fewer or shorter walks than he used to. The less time he spends walking on paved surfaces, the more his nails will grow.
A safety ramp is an essential senior dog product for owners with aging dogs that have arthritis. A carpeted ramp, in particular, makes it easy for your senior dog to cuddle with you in the bed or on the couch. Folding stairs are another option, but only if your dog can still manage stairs.
Padded beds are another senior dog care product to consider if your dog's stiff joints make it uncomfortable for him to sleep on the floor like he used to.
Your older dog may slow down physically, but she can remain sharp as ever mentally ... if you keep her engaged.
Even the oldest dog will channel his inner puppy with the right toy. To ward off boredom, rotate his toys. And consider adding some puzzle toys to the rotation. Because puzzle toys need your dog to focus and experiment, they're particularly good at warding off cognitive decline.
Playing games with your dog, like hide-and-seek or a gentle session of fetch, is also good for mental stimulation.
Quick note: Chew toys are an excellent choice for older dogs. Look for options designated as "senior" to reduce the risk of broken teeth.
Ignore the saying about old dogs and new tricks. Dogs love to learn. Plus, learning new tricks keeps the neural pathways in her mind active. Not to mention, it gives you the chance to heap praise on her for being such a good girl.
We said it above, but it's worth reiterating. Exercise is as important for your dog's mental health as it is for his physical health. A simple walk around the block is full of stimulation. (Think squirrels in yards, dogs across the street, kids on bikes...)
A few other senior dog essentials you'll want to have on hand to provide the best care for your older dog.
Senior supplements, like Veterinary Formula Clinical Care's Senior Support, are packed with ingredients that boost your dog's immune system, and help with his digestive, cognitive, vision, skin, and joint health.
It's an uncomfortable fact of aging we all have to face, humans and dogs alike. As we get older, our ability to "hold it in" declines. To make accidents less messy, you can either train your dog to use pee pads. Or, if he has no control, put diapers on him.
Laminate flooring can be murder on an old dog's joints. It's impossible to get a grip on and for a senior dog with mobility issues, slipping and sliding can be a real problem. Give your dog a pathway of non-slip flooring or carpeting to help him get around more easily... and with less chance of hurting himself.
It may look funny at first, but strollers (or carts for larger dogs) give dogs that can no longer get around on their own a way to experience the outside world.
Another option for senior dogs with mobility issues is a mobility harness, which allows owners to lift dogs up from a sitting or lying position.