How to Help Your Dog Age Gracefully

How to Help Your Dog Age Gracefully

by Dwight Alleyne, DVM

We all love our dogs, so it can be bittersweet to watch them grow from an energetic puppy to a slowed-down senior. (Time passes by so quickly!) So what are signs that your dog is getting old? Changes like shorter games of fetch or the graying of the muzzle are more obvious. But what else should you expect with an aging dog?

With this article, we’ll explore other changes to expect in your senior dog. We will discuss signs of chronic age-related pains and options on how to help them live comfortable lives in their remaining years.

Signs That Your Dog Is Getting Old

Many of us don’t like to say that our beloved pet is getting old. So, at best, let’s say they are aging gracefully. But even aging gracefully comes with changes. With these changes, adjustments may need to be made to maximize your pet’s quality of life.

Change in Weight

Just like us, as dogs get older, their metabolism slows down. This, paired with decreasing activity levels, can lead to weight gain. Older dogs also experience chronic pain, which makes them less likely to move around or exercise like normal.

Weight loss can also occur, as senior dogs are more likely to become finicky eaters. Age-related diseases can also contribute to the loss of pounds.

Changes in Personality

One of the hardest changes to understand in our senior pets is personality. They may greet you less enthusiastically when you come home from work, or become ultra clingy. Anxiety often increases with age, so increased aggression or apprehension may occur. Older dogs can also experience a condition called cognitive dysfunction, which can cause them to appear confused or unstable in their behavior.

Loss of Senses

It is not uncommon as your dog gets older to notice them bump into walls or be slow to come when called. Both vision and hearing loss can be gradual with age, as their eyes can develop things like cataracts and glaucoma and crucial cells in their inner ears may degrade. If you think your four-legged friend may be experiencing these changes, chat with your vet about what you can do to help.

Dental Disease

As your dog comes to greet you with a kiss on the cheek, you may notice that their breath stinks even worse than usual.  Older dogs are prone to gingivitis, dental tartar and infected teeth, and that bad breath could indicate one of these dental diseases. Refusal to eat dry food or not wanting to play with a favorite toy may also suggest a problem with the teeth. 

Chronic Joint Pain and Stiffness

With aging, the joints of dogs begin to degrade. Common places affected include the hips, knees, back and elbow. You may notice your best friend won’t be willing to go on their usual morning walk or won’t be able to walk the same distance. Also, jumping on and off of furniture may be avoided.

How Do You Improve Your Senior Dog’s Quality of Life?

Now that you know the signs of aging in your senior pet, you are probably wondering how to improve their quality of life. Here are some tips to help improve your pet’s well-being.

Proper Nutrition and Exercise

Since age can cause changes in  your dog’s metabolism, it’s important that they get the appropriate nutrition. This could include portion control or switching to a food formulated specifically for senior dogs.

Though mobility may be decreased with age, it is still important your senior dog gets enough exercise. This has to be within a reasonable limit based on if they are experiencing chronic pain or not, so talk to your vet to see what levels of activity and play they advise.

Since older dogs are more prone to health issues, it is recommended they get examined every six months by your veterinarian. This will help in early detection and treatment of common health conditions your senior dog may have.

Manage Chronic Age-Related Pain

Since our pets can’t talk, we can’t really know the type of pain they’re experiencing. Fortunately, there are many options on how to manage pain in our pets. If your dog is overweight and suffering from chronic pain, weight loss can be helpful. During your bi-annual visit to your veterinarian, you can ask about a prescription pain-management routine. There are common nutritional supplements available containing the active ingredients glucosamine, green-lipped mussel, and boswellia that have proved to be helpful.

Cannabinoid (CBD) oil studies have shown promising results for its use in helping manage chronic pain in older dogs. After a discussion with your veterinarian, you will want to look for the best CBD oil for dogs, like options from Heelr, which may help relieve occasional joint stiffness and help maintain joint mobility.

In Conclusion

Unfortunately, you can’t stop your senior dog from aging, but luckily there are plenty of ways to ensure that your best friend stays happy and healthy.  Being aware of the signs of aging and heeding the tips above will help ensure you have many years or licks and love to come.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne is a veterinarian who has over a decade of experience treating cats and dogs. He is also the creator of the Animal Doctor Blog

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