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caring for your aging dog

September 1, 2019


The inevitable aging process does nothing to diminish anyone’s love for their pet. Most people understand they need to help their dogs as they grow older but may be unsure how to go about it. A few important things you need to do for your aging dog are to focus on high-quality dog food, minimize pain, and maintain cleanliness to optimize health.




One of the most overlooked areas of managing an elderly dog is diet. As your dog ages, nutritional needs begin to change. Senior dogs require food of a higher quality to meet their diminishing abilities to digest ingredients and absorb nutrients. Chronic diseases like diabetes and kidney insufficiency not only require special nutrition but also decrease your dog’s ability to efficiently break down macronutrients like carbohydrates and proteins. Some senior diets also address common issues like progressive arthritis, retinal atrophy, cataracts, cognitive difficulties, and dental diseases. 

Your veterinarian can discuss the benefits of additives like chondroitin, glucosamine, MSM, and various vitamins. Also of concern is caloric intake. If not kept in check it may lead to obesity as your dog’s activity levels decrease. Other dogs with chronic conditions may experience trouble maintaining a healthy weight.


Pain Management


As dogs age, they can suffer pain from several sources. The most common is pain from osteoarthritis and long-term effects of hip dysplasia in larger dogs. However, dogs also suffer pain as a byproduct of chronic disease, cancer, and everyday missteps. If your dog is showing signs of discomfort that persist longer than a couple of days, you should consider a pain management program. 


Often, your veterinarian will be your best resource to address these concerns, Consider and discuss with them alternatives such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, essential oils, alternative herbs, CBDs, traditional anti-inflammatory or opioid medications, and trigger point injection therapy. Anti-inflammatories are similar to ibuprofen, albeit formulated specifically for canines. Your veterinarian may combine a few different classes of therapies to incorporate into your dog’s pain management program. 


Pets are more sensitive to the active drug in many anti-inflammatories than humans. A few examples of essential oils and herbs that are helpful in joint inflammation are ginger, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and turmeric. Another herb gaining more widespread use in canine pain management is CBD or cannabidiol extracted from the hemp plant. CBD is safe for dogs and has some benefits for relieving osteoarthritis. Chiropractors and other therapeutic specialists may use trigger points to identify pain sources and alleviate these areas of discomfort via injections or pressure. Trigger point pain therapy is similar to acupuncture.


Keep a Clean Environment


Other more subtle issues concern your dog’s aging skin. You will need to focus more on cleaning dermal folds as your dog’s skin loses elasticity. Your dog’s immune system will less resilient, so you need to be more vigilant about potential skin infections. Pay attention to increased dryness or oiliness of your pet’s skin. If your dog is less mobile, make sure to regularly check all skin surfaces for potential abrasions and sores from laying in one position too long. Always use mild soap and lukewarm water to clean your dog between baths. Your veterinarian can recommend non abrasive options.


Another frequent problem among elderly dogs is incontinence. Your dog may unknowingly exude both urine or fecal matter. Clean soiled fur promptly to avoid opportunistic bacteria from making a home which can lead to a host of other problems. As it becomes more difficult for your dog to move about, particular attention should be made in keeping her environment clean and sanitary. Not doing so attracts flies and other insects that can further lead to disease and other unwanted conditions not suitable for any dog, young or old. If lack of time or ability is of concern, an option is to hire a poop pickup service like ours to keep your dog’s play area immaculate. We come out and cleanup regularly. We can also apply sanitizers which help ensure utmost levels of cleanliness for your pets, family and yourself.


Dogs’ basic needs gradually change as they age. As arthritis or chronic disease creeps upon them and their teeth and digestive systems become less effective, dogs rely more on their owners to ensure their great quality of life continues. If the challenges of nutrition, pain management, and environmental maintenance are met early on, your dog should be able to enjoy its golden years more so. 


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