Older Dog Care
If you're looking for information about older dog care, chances are you furball is not as feisty as he once was.
Sad as it may be to hear, dogs are considered seniors at around the age of six or seven. While there may be
some exceptions due to hereditary factors and differences between breeds, this is a good time to start watching for physical and behavioural changes in your pet.
It seems like only yesterday he was a puppy, today he's your aging dog, but still just as special and
beloved. Time flies.
When Does Older Dog Care Begin? - Sooner Than You Think!
When dogs enter their senior years, they need your
compassion and loving attention
more than ever. It is a necessary commitment that goes hand in hand with dog ownership.
In other words, it's time to think about what you can do for your older dog.
With some dog breeds, you'll need to be particularly observant for signs of age-related
conditions such as arthritis. I'm speaking of those dogs with a high pain tolerance, that are able to carry on as normal
showing no signs of any discomfort they may be enduring. Retrievers and terriers are typically in this
Making Home Checkups Part of Older Dog Care
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the saying goes, and there's a lot of truth in that
statement. The best way to spot changes and common dog health problems in your dog no matter what his age,
is to learn how to give a weekly checkup. It's a good habit to get into right from puppyhood and definitely
a habit to include in your weekly older dog care schedule.
When you do
this you'll be able to notice subtle differences in his condition that may indicate a problem. Early
discovery of a potential dog illness can make all the difference in curing or managing it.
Not only that, but you may just be saving your senior dog from a lot of needless suffering - something really
worthwhile for your best friend!
So, how do we go about doing this checkup
We'll go over that in just a bit. Or, you can schedule a visit to the vet and have him demonstrate how to check your dog's vital
signs so you'll be able to tell what is normal vs. abnormal.
Things like, pulse, temperature, respiration,
circulation and fluids. Once you start doing this at home, keep a journal to record the information so
you'll have an accurate record from week to week.
Early Detection Can Save A Pet's Life
As I mentioned earlier, on a week-to-week basis, your dog's vital signs are fairly simple to track and
good information to record in a notebook as part of your older dog care - here's how to go about it
Older Dog Care - The Vital Signs:
Yes, they are vital, as these signs serve as indicators of your dog's health. If you start recording them from a young age, or at a time when they are in good health, you'll have a head's up if there are any changes
Let's start with the dog's temperature, which normally falls between 99.5° and 102.5°. A fever would be
indicated at a temperature above 103°. If you're not the nervous type or too squeamish, you can take the
temperature with a lubricated rectal thermometer.
But, an even better non-invasive option, that works immediately, is the No-contact Pet Thermometer
that is designed to take a reading when held over a part of your dog's body. Great for nervous older dogs and their owners!
His Heart Beats For you, So Check Your Older Dog's Pulse
OK, now that's done, let's move on to the
pulse to find out what's going on with the heart. This is where it will come in handy to ask the vet what
is normal for your breed of dog, because it can vary between size and breed.
So once you
have that information, what you are looking for is a strong and regular beat. You can check the beats in
either of two locations. One is inside the upper thigh on your dog's rear legs, which is where you'll find
the femoral artery.
The other is on the chest behind the left leg. Count the beats per minute - actually
you can do it for 15 seconds and then do the math, times 4.
Normal beats can fall in the 60-150 range, but don't jump to any conclusions until you
know what is normal for your breed of dog as I mentioned earlier.
Respiration, or in other words breathing, is another
good health indicator to review. Do this when your dog is in a relaxed state, not after he's been playing
fetch or is panting due to summer heat etc.
Once you know what is normal for
your aging dog, it will be easy for you to spot any distress or changes in his breathing. The average range
is around 10-30 breaths a minute, but again it varies according to breed and size. You can visually do a
15-second count of the breaths, or use a stopwatch, then multiply by 4 to get the one minute result.
Another health indicator is circulation which can be affected in aging dogs. Just as with humans, the blood must be carried efficiently around your dog's body to deliver nutrients to the tissues.
You can check out your dog's circulation by lifting his lip and pressing a finger on the gum line above the canine tooth. When you take your finger away, count how many seconds it takes for the gum to return to its normal pink color. More than a couple of seconds is an indicator of a problem and you should talk to your vet as soon as possible.
While checking his gums, use the opportunity to look over the condition of his teeth for any signs of
dental problems or excessive tartar build-up.
Dental health is especially important
to all dogs. Any problems, left unattended, can result in infections, which in turn can cause serious conditions if they get into the bloodstream.
Older Dog Care and Hydration Levels
Water, as we know, is necessary for all life forms to exist. Observing your dog's water intake as well as
checking his hydration levels can give you life saving information.
I know this first hand because this is
how I came to know of my dog's diabetes
. Don't hesitate to talk to your vet if you notice a sudden and
significant increase in your dog's water consumption.
Here's a simple way to check for dehydration
in your older dog. It's often referred to as the tenting test. Just pull up some skin around your dog's neck and
then release. It should fall back to normal right away if enough fluids are present.
However, if your dog
is dehydrated, the skin loses its elasticity and remains in a tented position, taking longer to return to
normal. Any sign of dehydration, which can be life threatening, is a solid reason to call your vet.
Hands On Older Dog Care
After you have completed these measured
health stats, follow up with a hands on examination and visual once-over of your senior pet. If
your dog has become used to your tender touch, and most likely he has, then he'll just think he getting some more pampering.
So run your
hands over his joints, back, and belly for signs of discomfort or swelling, and check his eyes, ears and
bottom for any signs of infection or parasites. Don't overlook
, as this is a prime location to inspect for embedded foreign matter or hidden abrasions.
And finally check your dog's breath for any difference other than the usual
doggy smell. If there are no obvious dental issues, bad breath can be an indicator of other serious conditions
such as diabetes or kidney problems.
Once you become very familiar with the routine indicators of your senior dog's life, including what goes in and what comes out, you will quickly notice any changes that occur.
Inevitably in our beloved older dogs, there will be some
physical signs of aging. Stiff joints or arthritis are common dog health problems, but there is a lot that can be done to ease the pain of these conditions. Fox example, if you haven't already started with hip and joint supplements, now is a good time to begin.
Hearing and eye problems can also be issues and sometimes there are changes in behavior. Owners will spot these signs and be able to respond to them quickly if they implement a weekly inspection routine.
The good news is, dogs are living far longer these days thanks to incredible advances in veterinary
medicine. So make the most of their golden years.
With compassion, there is so much we can do to make our senior dog's life comfortable and enjoyable. And,
this is the greatest gift a master can give his loyal friend.