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5 Changes To Expect in Your Senior Dog

As your dog gets older, her body changes in ways that can lead to health problems if you do not make changes in your dog’s diet, exercise, and supplement routines. Knowing what to expect as your dog gets older and what you can do to help them, may increase their quality of live and even their longevity.

1. Metabolism. As your dog ages and becomes less active, their metabolism slows down. This means your dog is not burning as many calories and fat as before.

  • Decrease food. If you continue to feed your dog the same amount, they will gain weight, which can cause all sorts of health problems such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, etc.
  • Increase Supplements. Older dogs are not able to absorb all the necessary nutrients and minerals from their food, so supplements need to be given to keep them healthy. (This oil has also become very popular with senior dog owners) Talk to your vet about what your senior dog needs.

RELATED: 3 Vet Recommended Supplements for Senior Dogs

2. Skeletal. Most aging dogs get spondylitis—degeneration of the spine—which reduces the spacing between the vertebrae. This can cause trouble and pain while moving. Dogs can also suffer from osteoporosis, just like humans, and arthritis

  • K9 Conditioning. Keeping your dog fit will help keep their bones healthy. Enrolling in a K9 conditioning class will teach you the proper way to stretch and strengthen your aging dog’s body.
  • Supplements. There are a lot of supplements out there that help strengthen the bones by increasing ossification (bone regeneration), such as chondroitin and glucosamine.
Many senior dogs end up with hearing and/or sight loss
Many senior dogs end up with hearing and/or sight loss

3. Eye Sight. Dogs can suffer from many eye diseases as they age: glaucoma, cataracts, blindness, to name a few. Being aware of your dog’s failing eye sight and making accommodations can help them live better.

  • Furniture. Don’t rearrange your furniture if your dog’s sight is failing. You can train your dog to know that a different surface (such as a plastic mat) means stairs are ahead. Use baby gates to block off dangerous areas as well.
  • Training. If your dog only knows cues via hand signals, start teaching them verbal before their sight is completely gone by simply saying the verbal cue seconds before you give the hand signal. Do this enough, and eventually your dog will respond the verbal and you can fade the hand signal.

4. Hearing. Just like their eyes, your dog’s hearing can also get bad as they get older. If your senior dog has stopped listening to you, before you get mad at their apparent “stubbornness,” take them to the vet for a hearing check.

  • Training. The main problem deafness creates is being able to respond to you. Be sure you start teaching your dog secondary hand signals if they do not already know them. If your dog is just hard of hearing, not deaf, you can also train them using a whistle (for example a herding whistle) which is louder than your voice.
  • Be careful to not let your dog get so far away they cannot hear or see you, because you may lose them. Also, be aware that they may no longer be able to hear a car coming. You will have to help them when it comes to avoiding accidents.
  • Be cautious waking up your hard of hearing dog. If you accidently startle them, they may reach to bite before they realize it’s you. Gently touch them to wake them or if your dog has a history of snapping, use something to gently nudge your dog awake so that your arm is not within reach.

5. Bodily Functions. Finally, as your dog ages, their systems often stop working properly. Some become incontinent while others have constipation issues. Urinary tract infections are also common due to poor sphincter control.

  • Supplements. You can help your dog with any of these issues with a variety of supplements and canine probiotics. Talk to you vet about what you can give your dog to help with her specific problems.
  • Management. You can buy puppy pads for your aging dog that can no longer hold it while you are gone, or diapers. When you are home, take your dog out more frequently than you used to.
  • Keep Track. Pay attention to often they go (too much or not too often) and if it appears unhealthy. Urine that is clear, dark, or bloody. Feces that is loose (diarrhea) or too hard (usually accompanied by straining as the dog tries to go to the bathroom). Let the vet know of any irregularities.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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