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If you’re a dog owner, sooner or later, the time will come that your furry friend will enter their senior years. Accommodating an elderly dog is important. Their bones and joints become weaker, and they begin to slow down. This is even more true in the winter months.
Winter requires a new set of responsibilities when it comes to owning an elderly dog. A new diet may be in order, or proper exercise and warmer living spaces. Winter can be tough: here’s how to make it a little easier.
Visit the Vet
First things first, visit the vet. Your dog’s joints and bones can be severely affected by colder temperatures, and before you think about changing their diet or exercising them, it’s important to check with the vet first.
Generally speaking, elderly dogs are weaker; the winter months can take a toll on their health. This makes them more prone to health issues which increase the need for regular vet visits.
Changing your senior dog’s diet can be helpful in a couple of different ways. First of all, adding supplements to their diet can help their joints stay lubricated. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are the most common supplements given for joint health. This should be a formula advised by your vet.
Diet can be a tricky thing to manage and should be contextual to the amount of exercise your dog is putting in. You want to avoid excessive ‘winter weight’, but if you are taking your elderly dog on regular walks, the colder temperature will require more energy for them to stay warm. If you’re keeping your dog indoors, moderate their diet to avoid weight gain. If you’re more active with your older dog, consider adding more protein to their diet.
Just because it’s winter does not mean your dog should be cooped up inside all day. This can be bad for their joints and muscles, their weight, and their mental health. Because of the cold weather, you’ll want to minimize the time spent outside. A walk for half an hour will do the trick. Consider buying them snow booties and a winter coat if your dog doesn’t have double coat fur.
Don’t be afraid to get them up and moving indoors, too. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Spend some time teaching new tricks and commands. It may take a little more patience than before but will be a good way to get them up and stimulated.
Another option is dispensing their food throughout the day. This will make them move around and get up for their meals more often. Remember to not push them through the pain, and let them take their time.
Comfort in winter is very important. Elderly dogs become more frail and susceptible to colder temperatures, so it’s essential that they have a warm bed available. The bed should be soft to help protect their joints and bones. If your dog suffers from arthritis or serious joint problems, consider a memory foam bed. Raised dog beds also help with support and keeping your dog off the cold floor.
Another thing to consider is going outdoors. Booties and a dog coat are suggested. Booties will not only help keep your dog’s feet warm but help them from slipping on the ice.
When it comes to grooming, there are a few things you should consider. Firstly, overwashing can cause problems. Depending on the type of coat your dog has, they should only get a bath every 12 weeks. Overwashing can wash away natural oils that keep their fur and skin healthy.
Next, you’ll want to moisturize your dog’s skin. The winter months can easily dry out their skin, which causes irritation and itchiness. If you think your elderly dog suffers from dry skin, consider giving them a regular dose of coconut oil. This can be helpful for both their skin and fur.
Lastly, regular brushing can go a long way for their health in the cold months. Not only do most dogs love to be brushed, but it will help keep their fur clean and their skin healthy. A brush a week is all it takes.
Winter months can be tough on anyone, and this is especially true with elderly dogs. Take a few extra steps to make sure they are comfortable when the weather gets cold.
Thank you to Matt Barnett, who runs the Dog Dojo blog, for contributing this guest blog post.