Thursday, June 8, 2017

Caring for senior dogs

Too often we take those we love for granted, and we need to be reminded to treasure each and every moment.  If you have been reading my posts over the last few weeks, you may have noted that this has become somewhat of a running theme.  But each time I notice my seniors displaying the signs and symptoms of old age, I feel a bit of panic, because I am not ready for them to leave me.  And while I know I may still have them with me for a couple more years, it’s heartbreaking to imagine a time when they won’t be by my side.  I’ve written about celebrating our time with our seniors, and trying to find activities they enjoy, but what else can we do for our special seniors?

The first thing we can do to care for our seniors, is to make sure they visit their veterinarians frequently.  Senior dogs, like senior humans, may develop health issues as they age.  Allowing your veterinarian to run senior blood panels enables them to catch diseases or problems before they progress and become life threatening.  You live with your dogs, and you may not notice a change in their weight, gait or personality if it is gradual.  By taking your senior for regular check-ups, the doctor may catch changes that you might have missed.

Dogs can lose muscle as they age, and to help prevent the atrophy of those muscles, you should walk your dogs as often as possible.  Keeping them at a healthy weight, and keeping them moving, will help them not only live longer lives, but also to have a better quality of life.  Don’t rely on the backyard for their needs, get them out walking, it’s good for both of you!  You will keep their minds active, by giving them new sights and smells to explore.  You will keep their bodies’ healthy, and you will spend time focused on them, away from the distractions of the internet, television and phones.

Play with your dogs, they may no longer demand playtime like younger dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still enjoy it.  When I get down on the floor and grab a toy and initiate a game of tug or catch, Abby and Holly just light up.  You can see the happiness in their eyes, in the wag of their tails and by the little prance that returns to their step.  They may not be able to run and play like they used to, but short bouts of gentle play can really brighten their day.

Some seniors love to sleep on the couch or your bed, but they may no longer be able to climb up on higher surfaces.  Remember they may suffer from the aches and pains associated with aging, so make sure to provide them with a comfortable place to sleep and rest.  They make ramps and stairs for dogs, and they also sell orthopedic dog beds, which are designed for senior dogs.  They may cost a bit more than regular dog beds, but the added expense is worth it.

As they age, dogs can also develop dental disease, so get their teeth cleaned by a veterinarian.  Dental disease can lead to infection and can cause health issues in other organs.  Also, pain from tooth decay and abscesses can make eating painful for seniors, and cause them to lose weight.  Try brushing their teeth every day, it will help keep their teeth clean after the veterinarian does a professional cleaning.  Just be sure to use products designed specifically for dogs, human toothpaste should not be used on dogs.

Consider giving your senior a joint supplement, which can aid in relieving joint stiffness and pain.  Your veterinarian can help you choose the best supplement for your dog, as not all supplements are created equal.  What might work for some breeds may not be what’s right for your dog.  Your veterinarian can advise you on what works and what doesn’t.

Consider changing your dog’s diet, as your senior doesn’t have the same nutritional needs that she had in her youth.  They make dog foods to cater to the needs of senior dogs, with added glucosamine and chondroitin for their joints.

And last, to enrich your seniors’ remaining years, consider creating a bucket list for your dog.  It may sound silly at first, but it can be a fun way to spend time with your dog.  You can add new places to visit and new things to try.  You can add favorite pastimes too, like long car rides, walks in the woods, swimming in the lake, camping or playing fetch - the sky’s the limit.  But you want to start doing these activities while your senior is still able to enjoy them, there is no better time than today.  Hug them often, give them the best care you can, and when it's time to let them go, stay by their side so they aren't scared and surrounded by strangers.  Remember, you have family, friends, work and hobbies...they only have you.


  1. We know how you feel having four seniors ourselves and all the same age. It's so hard to think of losing any of them, but making time each day especially for each one is one thing we have always done. That precious time alone, one on one is priceless. Love this post!

  2. Oh, those are FABulous suggestions! Ma says I'm a Senior, I will be 10 in a few months....I don't thinks I am, I thinks I'm still a puppy, so that's what I am! ☺
    Butts, it is ever so impawtent to get the blood AND urine tests done at least every year. My vettie found I had high levels of protein in my urine, and had run additional tests, and now I am on medication. I had NO symptoms ~ still don't. But it would have never been found until I was really sick if those tests weren't done! Ma is very thankful
    Ruby ♥

  3. Crikey .... you always give such good advice.
    I'm trying to get Mum back to blogging but she's like a senior dog and her eyes aren't real good. I know lots of bloggers have disappeared but I think they are there in the background. It's summer for a lot now and they are all out playing. They'll be back.

  4. It is hard for me to accept the fact that Bentley is a senior but at 9 1/2 he is getting a lot of white on his face. I will do everything possible to ensure he enjoys every minute of his senior years. ♥

  5. What a great post! Seniors are the absolutely BEST!

  6. Mom freaks every time she realizes I am 10. She takes great care of me
    Lily (& Edward)

  7. Great post. Lately we are seeing too many abandoning their pets just because they are getting older. Grrrrr!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  8. great post! because of what i went through with my doxie mix in her final years, i was planning on rescuing a senior dog so they wouldn't have to end their life alone, but then we found bailey. 6+ years later, she is now a senior. i know how precious life is so i cherish every moment that we have together.
    wags, bailey unleashed

  9. This is really good advice, especially more frequent Vet visits. I dread the day my dogs will leave me, I hate to think about it!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  10. hello collies its dennis the vizsla dog hay this is a grayt list for helping owr hyoomans kayr for us seenyors!!! and wow i kannot i beleev i am a seenyor dog now i wuz always the yung dog wen did it happin that i got old??? i think mama and dada wood like to no that too!!! ok bye

  11. This is a fabulous post! Especially the reminder to play. So many people take the increased calmness of senior pets as a sign they don't want to play anymore and it's just not true. They just don't need to play the same way puppies do.

    However many years your pups have with you, you're certainly making the most of them.

  12. I am like you, wishing that I'd never see signs of aging in my dogs. But I do love this post, especially the reminder that seniors still love to play. They do! And it makes me smile to see them light up!

  13. I love the idea of a bucket list for your senior dog! That's a truly amazing idea and I will remember it as Ruby gets older.

  14. Caring for senior dogs is bit difficult for me. I have a rottweiler, he is growing old. He always suffer from stomach infection, because he has a very sensitive stomach. Can u suggest me best senior dog food large breed for him?

  15. Shadow is my sweet senior girl. We have helped each other adapt to the loss of our Callie. And, while her face seems to turn a little bit whiter every day, I have a hard time accepting that she is indeed a senior despite her age-related struggles. So I give her as much love as I can every day.