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Caring For An Older Dog

Old Age Doesn't Mean No Fun

Hopefully, your dog will reach old age, but more importantly he will do it gracefully. The transition from an adult dog to an ageing or old dog is not usually clear to his owner. The signs will be present, but they will be harder to detect by someone who is in contact with the dog for every day of his life. The changes occur gradually and the order of the changes is irregular.

The ageing process is different depending on the breed of your dog; large dogs age more rapidly as they have a shorter life expectancy, (approximately ten years) medium sized dogs age slightly slower, as they have a longer life expectancy, (approximately twelve years) and small dogs age relatively slowly as some breeds can live happily up to the age of fifteen. A spayed dog is more likely to live longer and experience less health problems in old age. 

Signs to look out for in your dog include a general reduction in vitality. This may mean that he is less alert, or he simply comports himself in a more lethargic manner. He may sleep more deeply and for longer periods of time. He may be stiff when he wakes and he may experience difficulty in waking up properly. If he displays signs of constant or extreme stiffness (i.e. limping or a reluctance to climb the stairs) then arthritis or rheumatism could be a possibility. Although this goes hand in hand with old age, it may be wise to visit the vet.

Your dog may loose his hearing slightly, this may not affect him heavily but it does indicate that he is growing old. He may loose his sight. This may happen without you noticing, as dogs are excellent at adapting to these circumstances, especially if he is used to the layout of his surroundings.

If your dog is toilet trained, he may begin to lapse and accidents may happen in the house. It would not be helpful to punish him at this stage, as it was not a conscious decision for him, more a lack of bodily control. Punishment would upset the dog and he would probably already be feeling guilty. Simply take precautions to avoid such accidents.

Regular visits to the vet are important to avoid problems such as distemper, hepatitis or kennel cough. Your vet will also be able to advise you on precautionary measures for parasite related problems, as they are more common in older dogs. 

There are measures which can be taken to ensure that age related problems are minimal. Quality food is always important, but even more so in old age as nutrients will be absorbed more quickly. Be sure to avoid cheap food and consider a food formulated for the benefit of the older dogs. Cleaning his teeth is important to greatly reduce the risk of gum disease. Gum disease is extremely unpleasant for your dog and it may result in weight loss, as eating can be rendered very painful for him. Having said this, a reduction in his calorific intake may be needed to avoid weight gain, as he will be less active. His ears will need to be checked for any infections, they can be detected quite easily as infected ears usually give off unpleasant odours. He will benefit from being brushed more as this will encourage his skin to produce essential oils more quickly. It will also help detect any skin parasites and reduce painful matting in longhaired breeds.

Your dog, like people, will seek more comfort in his later years, so help him by providing a place ha can go and settle. Perhaps you could place a padded mat in his basket. 

It is essential to the dog that he still receives the mental stimulation that he was used to as a younger dog. He may not be as willing to fetch a ball or chase rabbits, but he will still be keen to lead an active life. If he is a working dog, re-training will benefit him greatly. He will receive a good amount of exercise, a good amount of mental stimulation and it will be something with which is familiar and that he enjoys. 

Old age does not have to mean the end of your active life together. Provided the relevant measures are taken you and your dog will be able to enjoy his final years just as much as you enjoyed his puppy and adult days.



Get annual physical exams from a veterinarian and follow his advice on preventive health care measures. Preventing disease while maintaining optimum health is the first step toward a long, healthy life.

Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible. Having puppies, especially repeated litters, is stressful and will contribute to premature aging.

Provide high-quality food designed for the life stage of your dog. Your dog's nutritional requirements will change throughout her life.Use vitamin and mineral supplements, including antioxidants, as recommended by someone knowledgeable about this subject in pets.

Exercise your dog daily. Playing, running or swimming will help prevent obesity and keep her active well into old age.Groom and bathe your dog regularly, paying particular attention to her ears and skin. Chronic infections and inflammation are stressful and promote aging.Have your dog's teeth cleaned professionally. Good dental health is a key component of longevity.

Provide adequate shelter and bedding, especially during inclement weather. Sleeping on cold, hard surfaces such as concrete will promote joint disease, stiffness and aging.Avoid subjecting your dog to environmental stresses such as secondhand smoke, noise, crowding or harassment by other animals.

Shower your dog with love and attention. Keeping her young at heart will promote a strong mental desire to stay active so she can join you in all activities.TIPSFind a veterinarian with a special interest in aging who keeps abreast of advancements in this area of pet care.Research this subject on your own. Experts' understanding of the aging process is changing rapidly, and knowledge gained about humans is often applicable to animals.Mental fitness is important in delaying aging in dogs, just as in people, so challenge your dog with commands and have her do tricks even as she ages. WARNING

Use caution and common sense when trying new supplements or "miracle cure" products that promise unrealistic results.


The majority of dog lovers in the world would agree that it would be cruel to actively keep a dog alive if he was in obvious pain and had no quality of life. Who decides whether a dog has no quality of life? It's certainly not the dog himself it is usually the family from which the dog comes upon the advice of the veterinary surgeon.

The most common way to humanely put a dog to sleep is by lethal injection. The dog will experience rapid loss of consciousness followed by either cardiac or respiratory arrest. The animal will feel absolutely no pain as it drifts into unconsciousness. This method of euthanasia gave rise to the euphemism ' to put to sleep'. It is a most peaceful ending, and the kindess thing that any owner/animal lover can do for their beloved pet to stop any unnecessary suffering, when all other options have failed.

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