All about a grey snout
Preparing for a senior dog
There is no typical age when a dog can be considered senior. Senior is a title given to small dogs at about 10 years, medium-sized dogs at 8 years, and larger breeds at 6 years of age (5 years in giant breeds).
Whether you’re adopting a senior dog (congratulations; they’re the BEST!) or watching your younger dog step into their senior years, you will need to prepare yourself and your home for them. Many senior dogs live full and well, but old age is tricky, so it helps to be ready. While every senior dog requires a different care routine structured to their specific needs, there are a few things that you can do to ensure your dog is comfortable in their old age, regardless of their particular condition.
Carpet your floors:
Dogs aren’t built to live their lives on smooth, tiled floors, and this becomes increasingly evident as they grow older. You’ll begin to notice that their paws start spreading out and slipping on the smooth floor more often. Many senior dogs develop arthritis or spondylitis, and a lack of grip makes these worse. Furthermore, if your dog slips and falls, they may sustain injuries that may take a long time to heal due to their advanced age. Overall, smooth floors restrict your dog’s mobility, aggravate pre-existing conditions, and pose a threat of injuries. To solve this problem, I suggest you carpet your floors (without even waiting for your dog to become a senior, if possible).
While you may not be able to completely cover your house’s flooring, you can get carpets for all your rooms and spread them out in areas frequented by your dog. For balconies or tiled outdoor spaces, you can get artificial grass mats. These are made of plastic, so please be careful with them, especially if your dog may chew on the ‘grass.’
Of course, since the objective is preventing skidding, invest in carpets with anti-skid bottoms or in anti-skid underlays for carpets you already own (safer for you as well!).
Make your house accessible
Not all senior dogs have health issues but some senior dogs may have trouble walking, and some may have issues with their bones, hearing or vision. Whatever your dog’s individual issues may be, be prepared to accommodate them and make your house accessible to your senior dog.
If they have trouble walking, you can look at dog strollers. If they need extra support for their hind legs (hind leg and hip issues are common in senior dogs), invest in a sling for support or a dog wheelchair if they cannot put any weight on their hind legs. If they have trouble walking up and down the stairs or getting on and off the bed, buy a ramp to make it easy. If you have multiple floors in the house, you may need to move your dog downstairs and install a doggy gate on the stairs to restrict access. Ensuring your dog has an easily accessible orthopaedic bed also helps.
If your dog has arthritis, spondylitis or injured neck or back muscles, eating from their bowl on the floor may become problematic. You can discuss it with your veterinarian and get a raised bowl if they suggest one. Height is the main factor to consider when purchasing this — if the bowl is too low, they’ll still strain to eat from it, and if it’s too high, they won’t be able to eat well from it. Some raised bowls are adjustable; you can use these for dogs of different heights. To determine the ideal height for your dog, have them stand straight and measure the height at which their front legs meet the torso. Get your dog a raised bowl only when recommended by a vet.
If your dog is losing vision, consult a vet to see how you can delay it. Ensure you do not move your furniture around so that your dog can navigate from memory without bumping into things. If you believe that your dog may eventually lose their eyesight or hearing, start working with a trainer to help them ease into the change. It can be overwhelming for your dog and you; being proactive takes a bit of stress away from it. Deaf or blind dogs are not lesser, and they can easily be accommodated with the help of a trainer (and some TLC).
Evaluate their diet
Many ageing dogs can develop issues with their kidney, heart or liver, particularly if their diets aren’t modified to suit their age. An age-appropriate, balanced diet ensures everything works well on the inside, even as your dog ages. Older dogs have a slower metabolism than young dogs and may become less active. Observe your dog’s activity levels and adjust the quantity of food per day, if required. Unless advised, you do not have to stop feeding your dog anything they used to eat, especially proteins and bones.
Bones are crucial for maintaining dental and joint health. Dental health impacts the health of internal organs, so bones in the diet are necessary for maintaining those too. You may need to add ingredients that can slow the effects of ageing in the body, especially cognitive decline and organ issues. You may also need to tweak some components to accommodate the changes in your senior dog. For example, you may begin giving your geriatric dog softer chews once they cannot handle the harder ones.
If your dog has been on a diet chart, get a veterinary check-up done, and consult the nutritionist again with the latest reports to get an age-appropriate chart. If your dog hasn’t been on a diet chart, get one if you feel the need to do so. Maintaining your senior dog’s health becomes a lot easier if you have someone else figure out nutritional changes and requirements for your dog.
I find senior dogs the cutest, even cuter than puppies! There’s so much wisdom in their eyes and absolutely no lights on simultaneously. Their greyed snout, slowed gait (deceptive: they can go really fast at times) and lack of care about what the world thinks is endearing.
Chinthana Gopinath says, “Age is a privilege,” and it truly is! There’s no finite age after which your dog becomes a senior, nor is there a definitive list of things that will happen as your dog ages. However, it is true that your dog will grow old one day and that some changes will accompany their greying snout. The one thing that will remain constant is the bond between you and your dog. So prepare well for their senior years and stick by them through thick and thin; your dog would do the same for you.