All animals change as they get older, including dogs. Your pup probably had the same personality and energy level for most of their life, but as they age, their body and mind will begin to change. It’s the natural aging process that comes for us all. You can support your pooch as they age, and knowing these six things will help you.
1. You Might Be Glad to Have Pet Insurance
As dogs head into their twilight years, they’re more likely to develop age-related health issues, such as joint problems, cancer, and other chronic conditions. These health issues can be expensive. Pet insurance can offset the cost, protect against unexpected bills, and enable you to provide your aging dog with the best possible care.
2. Your Dog Might Become Smellier
Pet parents be warned: older dogs tend to smell worse! However, it’s not old age that makes them smelly. Rather, your dog will likely become less active, which slows digestion and makes them gassier. What’s more, dental hygiene becomes more challenging. In other words, prepare for smelly dog breath to get worse. Stave off the stink by keeping your pooch active and brushing their teeth daily.
3. Your Dog’s Appetite May Change
Call it a mid-life crisis, but some older dogs have a complete change of diet in their older years unrelated to their changing nutritional requirements. They can become fussier and more particular about food flavors, brands, and treats.
Continue to feed your dog the same amount and at the set times you always did, two or three times daily. They may graze throughout the day, but as long as they don’t exceed their calorie intake, you can let them do their thing. However, if your pup isn’t getting enough calories, you may have to add a tasty topper or switch their food.
4. Your Dog May Struggle with Stairs and Longer Walks
Lowered mobility may also become a factor as your dog ages. Your pup may slow down or get conditions like hip dysplasia and arthritis that make movement painful. Mind you, this isn’t a guarantee. Your senior pup may still love three walks a day forever!
If mobility becomes an issue, you may have to change your routine by taking shorter walks or choosing easier terrain. Supplements like green-lipped mussel powder and omega-3 fish oil may also help to keep their joints supple.
5. Your Dog May Suffer from Doggy Dementia
Is doggy dementia a thing? Unfortunately, it is. It’s called canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. It’s common in older dogs, and here are the signs to watch out for:
- Pacing and howling at night
- Excessive repetitive licking
- Sudden confusion
- Memory loss
- Changes in personality or mood swings
- Increased separation anxiety
Symptoms can strike at different times of the day or days of the week. Your dog will rarely show these signs consistently. Be prepared to soothe your pup when they get confused and disoriented.
If you suspect your dog might be suffering from CCDS, talk to your vet. There is no known cure, but playing puzzle games and certain brain-boosting supplements may be helpful.
6. Your Dog May Become More Anxious or More Relaxed
Personality changes are common for older dogs. Generally, it’s not a huge change, but a gradual evolution of their personality.
For example, a dog who has always hated fireworks may become even more distressed by them. Alternatively, a dog who has always disliked children may become ambivalent or even mildly friendly toward them.
Get to know your dog’s new personality because you might have to make some adjustments.
Final Thoughts: Support Your Senior Dog by Paying Attention to the Signs
Dogs age at different rates and with different physiological changes, and yours may experience some, none, or all of these things. For example, some go completely blind while others just get cataracts. Some lose their hearing, and some develop sharper hearing than ever. Ultimately, the best advice is to listen to your dog. At every life stage, they’ll teach you how to best support them.
Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.