Just like us humans, a dog’s needs and behaviors change as they age. Every dog is different, so it is important to notice any changes in your dog’s mood or energy level. Here are some ways you can ensure that your older four-legged family member has the best, most comfortable life.
Older dogs have a higher risk of health issues. For this reason, schedule visits to your veterinarian every 6 months in order to keep up-to-date records on your dog’s health.
As your dog ages, their dietary needs will change. Search for foods that meet your dog’s specific health needs, or consult with your veterinarian for the best option.
Provide your dog with plenty of daily exercise (not too much) and mental stimulation. Learn how much your dog can take before they need to rest.
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Your dog may not be able to do things like use stairs or jump on your bed as easily as they used to. Be patient and offer them extra time when using stairs or going on walks. Match their pace as much as possible. Get small steps your dog can use to get onto your bed or couch to prevent injuries from jumping. It may not seem like much, but even a jump from a few inches off of the ground can injure an elderly dog.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or dog dementia, is an unfortunate part of getting older. According to PetMD, “clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome are found in nearly one in three dogs over the age of 11, and by the age of 16, nearly all dogs display at least one sign.”
Here are the symptoms of CCD to look out for:
- Extreme irritability
- Decreased desire to play
- Excessive licking
- Disregard for previously learned training or house rules
- Slow to learn new tasks
- Inability to follow familiar routes
- Excessive barking
- Lack of self-grooming
- Fecal and urinary incontinence
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Changes in sleep cycle (e.g., night waking, sleeping during the day)
If your dog shows any of these signs contact your veterinarian to schedule an assessment. One way to help slow the progression of cognitive decline is to provide your dog with routine exercise, play and training.