Best Friends Forever – Tips on Caring for Your Aging Dog

A life-long friendship

There’s nothing quite as captivating as a new puppy. Who could resist those big, trusting eyes, that wiggly bottom and those wonderful, wet kisses? But, while puppy charms may fade, the relationship between pet and pet parent only deepens with the passing of time. Charm quickly grows into love, trust and loyalty. A dog can be both a friend and a companion: someone who will listen when no one else is there. Even the worst day is suddenly brighter when you walk through the door at night and are greeted by an exuberant ball of fur who loves you without reservation.

Your aging pet

Old Labrador retriever.

Eventually, though, every dog starts to show its age. Now it’s time to give back a little of the undying devotion they have showered on us over the years. Just as a puppy needs house-training pads and its first set of shots, older dogs have their own set of physical and emotional requirements. Here are a few things to keep in mind while helping your devoted companion through his or her golden years.

  1. Diet – Many things affect the dietary needs of dogs as they age. They may have tooth and gum problems that require softer food, for instance. They may also have some loss of smell which can affect their appetite. Elderly dogs may not absorb as many nutrients from their diet as they once did. You can help your pet by choosing a well-balanced dog food that is designed for older animals. Offer wet food if your dog has trouble chewing kibble. Supplements are also available for pets now. A once-daily chewable vitamin can help ensure that your older dog is getting all the nutrients they need.
  2. Vaccinations – In the past, it was thought that dogs needed to be vaccinated at regular intervals throughout their lives to maintain their immunity to illness. Recently, it has been learned that older dogs can now safely go longer between vaccinations. Not only will their immunity not be compromised, they will also be spared the physical stresses that accompany vaccinations. Of course, you should always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s vaccination schedule.
  3. Exercise – Physical activity is as important for an old dog as it is for a pup. Health problems, however, can make exercise more challenging as pets age. They may be more sensitive to heat and cold, for instance, or they may have joint problems that make it more difficult to get around. Talk with your vet about safe ways for your dog to continue being active. Swimming may be a good choice because it takes the stress off of old joints. Walking your dog in the early morning might be one way to avoid the heat of the day. Your vet might also recommend medications that can make your pet more comfortable while on the move.
  4. Accidents – Many older dogs develop incontinence. Sometimes they have lost the cognitive ability to remember their house training, other times they simply have aging bladder muscles. You can minimize clean-up time by purchasing a waterproof bed for your pet and simply tossing it in the washer as needed. You can also buy cheap, disposable under-pads and place them on your couch or anywhere else your dog likes to sleep. Keeping a good enzyme-based cleaner on hand is a good idea, as well.

These few simple steps can help make your pet’s golden years the truly enjoyable time they deserve.

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