How to Care for an Elderly Dog

It happens fast. One day she is a young puppy causing havoc in your home running around and looking oh so cute. Then one day you see a few grey hairs on her muzzle and realize that your friend is getting on in her years.

Aging is a normal part of life. Caring for an elderly dog requires some changes in their routine. You can help your senior dog stay healthy and enjoy their golden years. In this post we’ll look at how to care for an elderly dog and issues to watch for.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the deterioration of the cartilage surrounding a joint. Osteoarthritis can develop in a dog’s hips, shoulders, elbows and knees. Bigger breed and overweight dogs tend to develop osteoarthritis earlier and more often than smaller dogs.

Activities like stairs and jumping off a bed or couch can hurt an elderly dog’s joints. In some of our older dogs, I’ve noticed that when their arthritis is bad, they will do a lot of licking on their paws and joints. When our elderly German Shepherd gets up too fast, sometimes his back legs don’t work right away, which slows him down a bit.

Our Shepherd will sometimes become agitated and growl when the other dogs are around him. This is because he is afraid of the other dogs stepping on him, running into him and hurting him because of his arthritis.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis but you can slow the progression. Exercise, diet and an effective joint supplement will help.  We give our dogs glucosamine.  I suggest buying the unflavored as it has no taste for those picky eaters.  I have bought the flavored in the past and a few of our dogs will not eat it.   

I suggest Best Paw Unflavored Glucosamine Joint Supplement.  This supplement will provide vitamins and minerals and it also has an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever with no side effects.  No fussing in trying to give your dog a tablet and the liquid is better absorbed in the body.  Please check the list of ingredients for allergy info and give the recommended dose.  

 

There are pain management options available for elderly dogs with arthritis. CBD oils or a dog massage therapist, chiropractor or physiotherapist is a natural approach to pain management. Therapists will often give you tips and exercises to do at home to help relieve pain for your dog.

If your dog suffers from joint pain you can help your dog get a better night’s sleep by getting her a dog bed specially designed for dogs with osteoarthritis and joint pain. 

My suggestion for a dog bed is the Milliard Quilted Padded Orthopedic Dog Bed.  This is a quality product that provides support and comfort for your dog with 4-inch thick orthopedic foam.  The Milliard Quilted Padded Orthopedic Dog Bed is easy to clean by simply removing the cover and machine washing.  It comes in different sizes, in a neutral color and at a reasonable cost.

Dog cozied up in the Laifug Dog Sofa.

 

If you are wanting the wrap-around pillow for your dog’s bed I suggest the Laifug Orthopedic Memory Foam Dog Sofa.  This dog sofa comes in different sizes.  It has a nonskid bottom and is easy to clean with a waterproof liner and a machine washable cover.  You will pay a bit more for this dog bed but it’s well worth it for the comfort of your elderly dog with joint pain.  

Medications should always be the last option in pain management for your dog. Never give your dog medications without consulting with your veterinarian first. If you and your vet feel that medication is a good option for your dog always discuss benefits versus side effects for your dog.

Loss of Hearing and Vision

Elderly dog in the sun.

A gradual loss of hearing is common in older dogs and has no cure. For my dog’s basic commands I say the command but also use the hand signal. So when our Bordie Collie started losing her hearing – she was already used to the hand signals.

Gradual blindness in an elderly dog is also normal. If your dog has cataracts this can cause some vision loss.
I would suggest not changing the furniture around in your home if your dog’s vision is deteriorating and closed doors or baby gates to stairs ways.

If your dog ever has a sudden loss of hearing or vision contact your veterinarian immediately. This may be a sign of a serious medical emergency.

Dementia or Cognitive Confusion

Signs of a dog developing dementia or cognitive confusion may include pacing, wandering around, getting lost in familiar places and peeing or pooping in the house. Your dog may also show changes in sleeping patterns, not socializing with family and friends as much, change in appetite, unable to recognize family or other family pets and decreased or no response to previous training.

I have found that as our dogs age they will become more clingy and want to be around us more. I think because like us, they become more dependent on loved ones during uncertain times. They may not understand what is happening and want to be around their caregivers. You may find that your dog’s separation anxiety increases as they age.

As our Border Collie aged I would find her standing in the kitchen during the night. I wouldn’t touch her for fear of startling her. I would call her name a couple of times- she would snap out of it and come back to her bed. I kept her bed in my room and started keeping the door shut or the baby gate up as I didn’t want her to fall down the stairs. 

There is no cure for dementia or cognitive confusion but we can slow the progression with a healthy diet, exercise and supplements. 

Incontinence

Dog incontinence is when your dog will urinate without being aware they are urinating. Incontinence will usually occur when a dog is resting or sleeping but can occur at other times too. 

You want to make sure that a dog urinating indoors is not due to health issues such as a urinary tract infection, bladder stones or excessive water intake due to diabetes.

If you suspect that any of the above symptoms may be due to health issues you should consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

The Walk

Remember the walk is still important no matter what age your dog is. Your dog needs to get exercise to keep the weight off and get his joints moving. Nothing too strenuous for your elderly dog.  A walk will keep him in shape and mentally stimulated.

As a rule, I’ve always kept my elderly dogs on the leash as their hearing and eyesight is not what it used to be. Because an elderly dog’s hearing or vision may be impaired – they are in danger of wandering into areas that may pose risks.

Bottom Line

Man sitting with his dog.

Along with the above recommendations we can do things in our home to help our senior friends. With our elderly dogs, I make sure that they rest often, especially if we have had a busy day. Putting their bed in a quiet place in your home will ensure they have a peaceful rest. If we are having company in our home I make sure that there is a place where our elderly dogs can go to have a rest and a nap if needed.

So in this post we have looked at how to care for an elderly dog and health issues to watch for. We also touched on the behaviors of an aging dog and tips to make your dog’s environment safer as they age. For pain prevention and management, you may opt for natural solutions for your dog such as supplements or a comfortable dog bed designed for dogs with arthritis.

The best medicine for your dog is for you to be present while spending time with them. Watch for changes in health or any discomforts to give them the best quality of life with their loved ones. Enjoy their characteristics and quirks, these are the things that we fell in love with them when they were puppies. Enjoy them as much as they enjoy you.

If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.

Thank you.

Kathleen

“After years of having a dog, you know him. You know the meaning of his snuffs and grunts and barks. Every twitch of the ears is a question or statement, every wag of the tail is an exclamation.”—Robert McCammon

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