Whether you’ve raised your dog from a puppy or adopted them as an adult, I think we can all agree that caring for a senior dog is truly a joy. But older dogs have unique needs that will change and evolve as they age, and it’s important to be attentive to those needs and to make sure your dog gets all the care and love they require as they age.
Every dog is different, and aging affects each one in different ways. Some dogs may have less energy and love to sleep, while others might be a little cranky. Regardless of their personality, your dog has developed a relationship with you over the years and become part of your daily life, and, if you’re anything like me, you want to do everything you can to make sure their twilight years are the best they can be.
Monitor and adjust their diet.
As your dog ages, you may notice that they eat less than normal or have a harder time keeping food down. Talk to your vet about any major changes in eating habits to rule out medical issues and to determine the best way to adjust your dog’s food or eating schedule. Your dog may need to eat smaller portions several times throughout the day or may need to switch to a different type of food that’s easier for them to digest.
Give your dog a place of their own.
Puppies want—and need—constant attention. Senior dogs are a little more independent. Chances are your dog would appreciate a place in your home that’s all theirs, somewhere they won’t be disturbed by kids, noises, or other pets. Giving your senior dog a place to go when they feel overwhelmed or overstimulated is a great way to make them feel more comfortable.
Brush those pearly whites.
A dog’s teeth tend to deteriorate with age, just like a human’s. Take time to brush your dog’s teeth regularly, and if you’re unsure how to do that, talk to your veterinarian. And be sure to take your dog to the vet for regular checkups to keep an eye out for dental decay and gum disease, which can result in oral pain and sensitivity.
Provide a comfy place to sleep.
Even if your dog has spent their whole life sleeping on the floor, it’s a good idea to get your furry friend an orthopedic dog bed. This more comfortable surface will be better for their aging body and allow your senior dog to get restful sleep each night. And if your dog sleeps in your bed, consider purchasing some steps to help them get up to the mattress more easily.
Pay attention to joint health.
Just like older humans, senior dogs often have physical pain as they age. Their joints may be stiff or arthritic, and they may have more trouble getting around. If you notice your dog limping or struggling to walk, talk to your vet about what you can do to help with their joint pain, whether that’s giving them a supplement or pain medication.
Keep them cozy.
If your dog does have stiff joints, they may enjoy sleeping in warm places, like in sunbeams or snuggled close to you. Consider adding an extra blanket to your dog’s bed or even turning the heat up a little in your house during the cooler months to make sure your senior dog is warm and comfortable.
Go on adventures.
Just because your dog is older doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun with them! Write a list of things you’d like to do with your senior dog, whether that’s hiking trips, a visit to the beach, or even small things like getting ice cream. Take time to do their favorite activities and help your dog live the rest of their life to the absolute fullest.
Give them a social life.
Even if your dog has slowed down and doesn’t leave the house as much or has difficulty walking, they are social creatures. They may not want to play with other dogs as much, but they generally do enjoy the company of people and dogs, so set up playdates with your friends to come over and hang out.
Keep their minds sharp.
Yes, old dogs can learn new tricks. A puzzle toy, treat ball or teaching them new brain games like “find it” are just a few great ways to keep your senior dog stimulated and enjoying their time. And it is fun for you too as it is a new way to stay connected and interacting with your furry friend.
Love your dog.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but the best thing you can do for your senior dog is to continue to love them unconditionally. Show them your affection, your patience, and your understanding as you work to meet their needs and keep them as happy and comfortable as possible. After all, your dog has certainly made your life better, so do what you can to make their life better every day.