Thank you to freelance writer Elliot Caleira for writing this blog post.
Aging affects everyone, and as with humans, dogs are prone to the regular physical deterioration that comes with getting older. And just as we have to take special steps to prolong our lives and take care of ourselves as we age, we must do the same for our dogs.
The most common effect of aging for dogs is mobility loss, especially in the hind legs. While this is something that is not entirely preventable in most breeds, there are certain ways in which you can keep your dog healthier for longer, and make their life more comfortable when mobility starts to deteriorate.
The main way to keep your dog healthy for as long as possible is to make sure that their lifestyle is consistently healthy. This includes a proper diet, and constant exercise. Regular walks are crucial in keeping good physical health for any breed, though the length of the walks will differ accordingly.
Check for Early Signs, and Address Them Immediately
Much of the best prevention comes in being aware of certain signs, and taking the correct measures to counter them. For example, if your dog is starting to gain or lose weight, or starts to stumble during long walks. They might also start to experience incontinence or bad breath (worse than normal!), or have wounds that will not heal. Regular checkups at the vet are essential, so that any of these symptoms can be addressed as early as possible.
Maintain Good Dental Health
A lot of more serious health issues start in the mouth. Good dental hygiene is therefore very important. Use dental chews or canine toothbrushes to keep your dog’s mouth clean, and try to prevent them from drinking stagnant water while out on walks.
What You Can Do to Help a Dog with Reduced Mobility
Reduce Their Diet
As dogs age, their metabolism changes and so they need fewer calories. Generally, a dog’s energy requirement will decrease by about 20 percent. If a dog has weaker hind legs, its activity will decrease as well. This means that its energy needs have decreased by a further 10-20%. As such, it is important to reduce your dog’s diet accordingly, or it will start to gain weight, making mobility even more difficult.
Keep Them Clean
If a dog has low mobility, it will fall on you to make sure that they are kept clean, as they will not be able to do this themselves. It is especially important if they have become incontinent, as urine will linger and hurt their skin. If it is just urine or some mud, a quick rinse will do, but every so often a deeper clean will be needed using a natural dog shampoo. There are plenty of choices to choose from!
Your aging dog is still that same dog that you know and love, it just might not be able to do some of the same things that it used to be able to. While it will be frustrating to have your dog defecate on the carpet, the struggles that it is facing are far worse than yours. Try to be as patient as possible, realize that these are natural effects of aging, and that they are not your dog’s fault. While your dog might not be exactly the same as it was, you can still enjoy a happy relationship for the remaining time you have together.