A long with taking your older dog to the vet when he’s feeling his age, there are many things you can do to help him kick back and enjoy his golden years. Don’t worry about a pastel – colored doghouse with a chaise longue and a view of Miami Beach. All it takes is a few simple adjustments to his environment and daily routine, and a little consideration, to help him through the day.
Coping with Incontinence:
All dogs love to get out in the open air and feel the grass between their toes, but for older dogs with a bladder problem, more frequent trips outdoors are a must. “Make it possible for your pet to have access to the outdoors or to a safe place to urinate or defecate,” says Dr. Schmitz.
According to Dr. Schmitz, you can help your pet if he’s suffering from incontinence by readjusting his lifestyle. “You might consider making it comfortable for your dog to live outside, even if that hasn’t been the case in the past,” if drug therapy doesn’t help your dog’s problem, this may be the best solution for all concerned.
Keeping in Shape:
Just because your dog is slowing down a bit, it doesn’t mean he has to stop altogether. If he does, he’ll start to put on weight. To make sure he stays fit and trim, weigh him monthly, suggests Dr. Brownstein, to keep an eye out for any changes. Help keep his weight down by feeding him a “senior” dog food, created to meet the nutritional needs of dogs over seven or eight years of age. “These foods are generally lower in fat and calories and also higher in fiber,” says Dr. Brownstein. She warns that dogs with kidney problems or diabetes may require a specific prescription diet from their vet.
Dr. Brownstein also recommends that the more mature dog gets regular exercise to keep in shape. The pace might be a little slower and gentle than it used to be, but it’s good to keep him active. (If your dog has turned into a bit of a couch potato, be sure to get him checked out by your vet before you sign him up for that Frisbee – catching competition at the local park.)
Coping With Blindness:
If your dog ha started bumping the furniture, walking into walls instead of through doors, chances are he’s losing his eyesight. For most dogs, this is gradual process, so they have time to get used to this new state. You can help, too. Dr. Schmitz recommends that you provide your dog with a consistent environment, one that does not change vey often or even at all. “Do not move things around in your pet’s surroundings,” he says. If you have to move a piece of furniture, do it gradually so your dog can get used to the changes a little at a time.
Dr. Schmitz also suggests you talk to your blind dog to help guide him through his domain. Audible cues, such as “Oops!” or “Watch it!” will warn him of impending collisions and encourage him to find his way around.
Help for the Hard of Hearing:
For deaf dogs, the advice is similar. Use visual cues to communicate with your dog once his hearing have gone, recommends Dr. Brownstein. She suggests anticipating the problem by training you dog to understand hand gestures when he is young. “Consider teaching your dog hand signals for the basic commands.” This way, you can still “talk” to your dog even when he can’t hear.
Dr. Schmitz points out that even though a dog may be losing his hearing, it might be less of a problem than you think. “Remember, a dog’s hearing is better than ours to begin with in most cases, so a small hearing loss may not have as much effect on them as it might on one of us.”
Easing Tired, Old Bones:
Your dog is beginning to show the effects of arthritis, you’ve taken him to the vet and he’s taking his tablets. You can also make some minor changes at home that will help him get around. Cover slippery floors with a mat or two so he can keep his feet under him on the slick surface. Raise his food and water bowls off the ground so he doesn’t have to bend. Put them on a low table, or in a raised holder designed for dog bowls. Make sure his bed is extra soft, and put a cushion, preferably one made especially for dogs, in a warm, dry spot inside the house for him to lie on. He’ll appreciate the relief these changes bring.
Change is too strange:
The elderly pooch may be quite set in his ways. Even if he’s in good physical shape and seems to be handling his retirement with aplomb, it’s a good idea to keep changes to a minimum, says Dr. Brownstein. “Older dogs do not adapt to sudden changes easily,” she explains. Keep him in mind when you rearrange the furniture, redecorate, or alter your schedule. Even a change in the time you feed him and take him for a walk can cause him distress. And an addition to the family might also upset the older dog.