Caring for an aging dog

Spotlight Staff

Caring for a dog is no small task. Many dogs need daily exercise and interaction with their owners in order to live long and healthy lives. But as dogs age, the responsibility of caring for them can become even more demanding.

When a dog begins to exhibit signs of aging, it’s easy for dog owners to assume that the rigors of caring for the dog will lessen. But while aging dogs may not need or want to spend as much time playing fetch or walking around the park as they used to, they often grow more dependent on their owners as they grow older. Recognizing a dog’s changing needs and how those needs relate to caring for the dog is a responsibility dog owners must take seriously.

* Consider altering the dog’s diet. Many aging dogs do not need as much food to maintain a healthy weight as they did when they were puppies or in the prime of their life. Much of that is because aging dogs don’t exercise as much as they used to, meaning they won’t be burning as many calories as they once did. So an aging dog that’s still on the same diet it had as a youngster might gain weight, which can lead to a host of uncomfortable or even painful ailments. Owners concerned about their dogs’ diets should consult a veterinarian, who may recommend a geriatric diet that will provide all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients dogs need while reducing their risk of obesity.

* Make sure water is accessible and available throughout the day. Older dogs are at greater risk of dehydration, so owners should make sure water is readily available for the dog at all times. Aging dogs often struggle with their mobility, so place several water bowls throughout the house so dogs do not have to travel far when they need a beverage. Keep a bowl in close proximity to where the dog sleeps as well.

* Don’t overlook dental care. Dogs are known for bad breath, so while there may not be much owners can do to make their aging dogs’ breath smell like a rose garden, that does not mean pet owners should overlook dental care. Dogs whose teeth are clean and tartar-free are less likely to develop potentially serious medical problems, including heart disease, which can be a byproduct of tooth decay. Dogs may lose some teeth as they age, but owners should still emphasize dental care for their aging best friends.

* Lend a hand to dogs who are struggling with their mobility. Aging dogs suffering from arthritis may struggle to get out of bed or climb flights of stairs. When dogs start to struggle with their mobility, pick them up and carry them up the stairs or help them out of bed in the morning. Veterinarians may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to ease soreness and pain, but owners can take additional steps to help dogs with mobility issues, such as positioning bedding and food and water bowls so that they are more accessible to dogs.

Dog owners often find it heartbreaking when the aging process starts to take its toll on man’s best friend. But there are several ways owners can make the aging process more comfortable for their dogs.

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