Caring for an Older Dog – is it time to review your routine?

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The initial idea for this blog was that it would look at issues of choosing appropriate beds for older dogs, those with joint issues and arthritis. After all, that is what we do – try to provide the most appropriate sleeping environment for all our doggy clients. However, having recently seen how the oldest dog in families with multiple dogs can get side-lined in the everyday mayhem that is normal life, I have wandered off target to look more broadly at the care of older dogs. Not in a clinical sense, of course because I have no veterinary training, but more as a request to look more intensely at your older dog and ask, is he/she in as good a place as they can be and should I be doing things differently now?

Fruin aged 13Old age creeps up on us and on our dogs too. For a long time we still see the puppy and it is often not unless illness hits that we truly recognise and acknowledge that they are getting older. Then many of the changes in them tend to be dismissed as, well, they are getting on a bit. But we really should stop and look at how we are interacting with our dog, how they are responding to other dogs and life in general. If there have been changes in their behaviour, it is not old age per se that is causing them, but rather conditions that often come with old age – heart problems, arthritis, diabetes, and a reduction in the effectiveness of key organs like the liver and kidneys. Because these things often occur gradually, we fail to detect that there are issues until they have become quite severe.

So without wanting to suggest you become paranoid about your dog’s health, you might want to carry out a regular review of the basic signs of dog health – energy levels, appetite, water consumption, quality and frequency of weeing and emptying of bowels, brightness of eye, teeth and gum colour, condition of ears. If you do these from an early age, not only will your dog be easier for a vet to examine, but you will pick up problems earlier which will improve the potential for a good outcome and save you money in vet bills. This applies equally to young and older dogs.

Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of a broad range of conditions are similar, so even the professionals can find it difficult to track the source of a problem immediately. If you detect change, monitor for a couple of days, unless the symptoms are acute, of course, and note down in writing what you observe. That way, if you do end up going to the vet, you have both a record of the progression of the condition and also an aide memoire, enabling you to recall all the symptoms, not just those that come to mind in the moderately stressed environment of a vet consulting room. This will help with diagnosis. Also, don’t throw away your notes. Keep for future reference as there may be a long term pattern that emerges when you refer back so them a few weeks or months later. You might want to consider keeping a doggy diary which keeps everything in the same place and avoids you loosing scraps of paper. You can spare 5 minutes a day, no matter how busy you are. There are even Apps you can use, so you can make notes when out on the dog walk.

OK, so I have said nothing about specific things to think about in relation to caring for an older dog, but hopefully got you started and that will come in the next post.

What do you think needs to be considered with older dogs?