Mature dogs and elderly dogs have different needs to younger dogs. This isn’t a groundbreaking fact – after all, mature and senior humans have different requirements too! But how do you know when your dog is now a senior?
This can depend on the breed of the dog, and also the individual dog. Giant breed dogs age way faster than medium or small breed dogs. For example, a Great Dane is generally considered to be senior by about 6 years old, while a small terrier will only be around early middle age by then.
Large and medium breeds, like Huskies, fall somewhere in between. A Husky is usually considered senior by around 8 years of age. All of this really depends on genetics and environment.
It’s a good idea to be well prepared for the inevitable aging of our fuzzy best friends. After all, our companions and helpmates are with us for a smaller time period than the humans in our lives. Some pet owners will raise several dogs over the decades, and kiss them goodbye one by one, as they set off over the rainbow bridge.
What Changes Happen To Older Dogs?
Older dogs may develop arthritis or other degenerative diseases that make walking or playing more difficult. They might still be keen to engage in activities, but tire more quickly. They’ll sleep more. They might have difficulty getting up and down stairs, or in and out of the car.
Gum disease can become a big problem in older dogs. Decayed teeth are painful and prevent your pet from eating properly. This can cause weight loss and an unhealthy coat. Your poor old guy or gal will smell bad too.
Some dogs can become very overweight with age and lack of exercise. The pet owner probably feels like their ageing best friend deserves more treats than before. The result? Obesity – which is very bad for joints and organs.
What Can You Do To Care For Senior Dogs?
Regular vet visits will now become necessary. Some illnesses don’t show on the outside, and will take a professional to diagnose. It costs less to find problems in the early stages – and it prevents your pet from suffering.
Related: Common Husky Health Problems
Older dogs need food that is lower in calories, and higher in fiber. You can feed your dog smaller meals, with fiber chews or supplements, or you can switch to food made for senior dogs.
You might consider fortifying your senior dog’s diet with fatty acids. These come in various forms at your pet store – liquid you pour on doggo’s meals, or chews. Luckily, trying to get a suspicious dog to eat a tablet or capsule is a thing of the past!
If you don’t brush your dog’s teeth or feed them dental treats, now is the time to start! Gum disease can be very unpleasant, and even lead to a fatal infection. Make sure you inspect their mouths regularly, especially if they start to rub or paw their snouts.
Exercise is vital, to keep both older dogs and humans active and happy! It helps an older dog to stay lean, and maintain healthy joints and muscles. Take care to tailor the exercise routine to your specific dog’s requirements. If they start to struggle on a longer walk, shorten the exercise period.
A gentle ball toss at the end of a shorter walk can keep you both moving for the optimum time, without overdoing it. Be careful with your very fuzzy Husky, and make sure he or she has plenty of water and shade on hot days.
Just because your dog is older, doesn’t mean they don’t need plenty of entertainment! Think about buying them toys like Kongs to keep them occupied. Remember, they can’t spend as much time greeting the postman or investigating the flower beds any more.
Make sure your older dog is as comfortable as possible. If they have joint problems like arthritis, you might want to look at investing in a special bed that is raised off the floor, and is easier to get on and off. Some pet owners use carpet tiles in strategic places, to stop older dogs slipping on tiled floors.
If you know of senior humans with older dogs at home, how about starting a group of volunteers to help get these beloved pets out for walks or to the vet? Many older folks are too embarrassed to ask for help if they can’t get around like they used to.
Age is inevitable, but there’s no reason to change the relationship you have with your best furry friend. Just take extra care of them and allow them to do things at their own pace.