New dog, old tricks

First day/ week:

Get a thorough health check

As soon as possible, get a thorough check-up of your dog done at a reliable veterinary clinic. It’s good if you already have a vet you can trust. If not, ask the shelter to suggest someone. For seniors, it is essential to get a Kidney and Liver function test, at least at the first vet visit. For accurate results, ensure the dog has been fasted for at least 8–10 hours before the sample is collected. If the vet does not require/ suggest it, you can skip scans but make sure you get a physical examination done. Do not skip a dental check — dental diseases can cause trouble if left unchecked, especially for your dog’s kidney. Don’t panic if something is off in the reports — take their medical history and current state (fresh out of a shelter; probably scared and adjusting) into consideration.

The first course of action is a thorough health check-up at the vet. This should at least include blood tests (kidney and liver values included), dental and physical examination. Photo by Laura Paraschivescu on Unsplash

Buy them what they need

I mentioned in an earlier blog that your dog does not need every product made available to dog parents. With senior dogs, that’s even more important. Take your dog’s health and activity into consideration and buy them what they need. Some dogs may require an orthopaedic bed, some may need absorbent sheets, some may not be able to use a raised bed, while some may just be fine on any bed your get. Similarly, some senior dogs may love squeaky toys, while others may be scared or find toys painful to hold.

Waiting to shop for your dog until they’re home allows you to buy them things suited to their specific requirements. Photo by Komarov Egor 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

Allow them to settle in

Rescue dogs take up to 3 months to settle in their new homes. You can expect your senior dog to take a little longer. Imagine you’re old, maybe partially blind, and have suddenly been moved to a new place with seemingly pleasant people but lots of new stimuli. You’d take time too, right?

Your dog will take a few months to settle in. We thought June was debarked until a few weeks after her adoption, when she almost yelled at us for some prawn fried rice!

Going forward:

Optimise their diet

Do not go about overhauling your dog’s diet on their very first day home! Firstly, if you do not have their reports, you do not have an aim with their diet. Secondly, it’s going to mess their digestion up.

A fresh, balanced diet with meat, fish, organs, veggies and other beneficial ingredients has a tremendous impact on your senior dog’s health, both internally as well as externally

Pay attention to their activity and health

Just because your dog is considered a senior does not mean that they can’t do any activities. Continue keeping the dog active and engaged as long as they are comfortable. Ageing is not only physical; it’s mental too — mental stimulation will keep your dog sharp. It is, however, necessary to look for cues of pain and fatigue (always necessary, but more so with senior dogs). If you feel your dog cannot do as much as they used to, see a vet and rule out more extensive issues. If they chalk it up to ageing, let your dog exert as much as they comfortably can and do not push them to get an extra walk in or play more and sleep less. As discussed in our blog on dog sleep, senior dogs need to sleep more than younger ones.

A senior dog may not be able to do as much as they used to, but it is important to keep them physically and mentally active within the realm of their comfort. Photo by Linoleum Creative Collective on Unsplash

Spend time with them

There are few things more heartbreaking than realising that your time with your dog is finite. This realisation comes home when your senior dog does, and it should spur you into action. As your dog begins trusting you, they will need more time and lean more heavily on you. And they should — you’re the one constant they know!

As your dog begins trusting you, they will need more time and lean more heavily on you. And they should — you’re the one constant they know!

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