TRAINING & BEHAVIOUR TIPS – Caring for Aged Pets

Taking Good Care of Your Old Dog

Six ways to help your old dog be a happy dog, age gracefully and stay healthy.

Sometimes the first sign is a little greying around the muzzle, perhaps a slight loss in hearing (though in my case, I can’t help but think this is “selective” deafness), but they still love to run, roll in muck and will embarrass the heck out of you by stealing a child’s ball at the local playground!

You can’t help but love your geriatric old fool, right? So here’s Six Top Tips to keep your aging dog young at heart.

#1: Keep Your Dog at a Health Weight (Or start cutting those calories!)

Is your old pooch groaning and fumbling when getting up or laying down? Those old joints do get a little creaky with age and can cause some soreness and discomfort to your old timer.

The more weight they have to carry around the harder it is on their body and, like people, as dogs age they do become less active. The calorie intake your pooch would have consumed as a rambunctious 2 year old will start to add those kilos when he hits the big 1-0.

Talk to your Vet or one of Crazy K9s Qualified Nutritionists about the best diet for your podgy pooch. All diets vary depending on how much extra weight your dog is carrying and their overall wellbeing (taking additional health concerns into consideration is a must). As a general rule however, the best combination for your dog is cutting back on the higher calorie diets and adding extra exercise. Ensure he is on a quality diet for his age and size, when cutting back the kibble bulk out your Pet’s dinner with grated carrot, a little cottage cheese or mashed sweet potato.

#2: Burn those calories with Exercise

I know, I know, this all seems like something you read in a diet book or the latest celeb mag about summer slimming booty butts right? Well the same “use it or lose it” rules apply for our pet as well.

It doesn’t matter if your aged pooch has become a little podgy or if he is still as slim, fit and bouncy as he’s always been, you need to consider their aged body’s limitations.

Older dogs can’t regulate their body temperature as well as they used to, so can’t tolerate the heat and cold as easily. Their hearts and lungs become weaker and it is estimated that 1 in 5 dogs in Australia suffer arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis.

What does this all mean? Well your rascally border collie who spends hours rounding up the small white fluffies at the local dog park can run himself into the ground (literally) or end up stiff and limp for the days following. Find a more appropriate but still stimulating outlet for him. Exploration games in the backyard with Hide & Seek treats and toys, or long relaxed walks through bushland where he can sniff and explore mixed with short rounds of fetch.

#3: Regular Check ups

Popping in to see your vet once a year when Fido is due for his annual booster may be ok for a younger, fit and healthy dog but as dogs age faster than people and ‘middle age’ is right on their heels that yearly trip should become a 6-monthly visit.

The earlier a health problem or deterioration is caught, the more likely it is treatable and in most cases, treatment is cheaper.

No one knows your dog better than you so if you think something is off and he just doesn’t seem quite right, have your vet check him out. Don’t put everything down to “He’s just getting old”. Dogs suffering from arthritis or joint pain can seem slower (especially in the cooler months) and are often in pain unnecessarily Your vet will determine an appropriate course of pain medication for your pooch to put the spring back in his step.

#4: Injury Prevention

Slips, falls, trips and tumbles happen to the best of us as we age. Combine this with reduced mobility and loss of eyesight and your little pooch is in for a few bumps and bruises.

Limit the possibility of real damage by preventing those jumps on and off the furniture and making stairways or trips in the car safer.

It is quite the training commitment to stop a lifelong habit of jumping on the couch or your bed but you can easily purchase portable stairs and teach your old dog a new trick by using these to prevent jumping.

Large dogs can be helped into your car with the use of a ramp and help him navigate stairs by using a body harness with an attached handle on the back for your assistance.

#5: Sleeping Quarters

Sure, its fine when you are in your early 20s to party all night and crash on your mate’s couch, but no doubt you find as you get older catching a couple of Z’s on the long haul flight leaves you stiff and sore.

That said, how about Fido? Appropriate bedding is a must for dogs of all ages and something super comfy will help keep them off your plush sofa however, old dogs (especially large dogs) need something a little more than just a foam mat on the floor.

Larger dogs have a greater distance to get down and up again so common sense suggests that a toddler’s cot mattress or a think foam core or gel filled bed is going to be easier on their joints. As does a pile of old doonas collected from the Op-Shop better serve your little fluffy.

If you live in a colder climate down south or blast the air conditioning year round up north, think about your Buddy by providing a self heating bed, electric warmer or simply a hot water bottle for him to snuggle up to.

#6: Stop and Smell the Roses

With the loss of their hearing, or their vision or even both some older dogs can easily become disoriented in unfamiliar places.

If your Geriatric Greyhound has lost some hearing, don’t assume he’s ignoring you when he doesn’t immediately do as you ask him, instead experiment to find various pitches he can still hear well and introduce hand signals early (I like to give my oldies a Thumbs Up for “Good Dog”).

Be patient! If your Old Pooch is a little achy in the hips and he moves slower now than he used to, please don’t become one of those people who marches the poor bugger along regardless. Let him stop and smell the garden beds, tree trunks, post boxes, and that dachshund’s butt… His time is limited, Enjoy him now.

For training tips and advice to help your Senior Dog, or to book an appointment with one of our Qualified Pet Nutritionists contact Crazy K9s today and don’t forget to ‘Like Us’ on Facebook!