Caring for Older Dogs | How to Look After a Senior Dog
Advances in modern pet care and veterinary medicine mean that we get to enjoy more years with our four-legged best friends than ever before. Our dogs give us unconditional love, support and companionship during their lives, bringing us so much happiness every day. So, how do we even start to repay them?
Whether you have had your dog for years or have recently adopted an older dog, making sure your canine companion is happy and healthy in their old age is one way you can show them your thanks. In fact, we think it's one of the most important aspects of being a good pet owner.
We asked the Verm-X team, as well as Dr Nick Thompson MRCVS, how everyone made life as wonderful as possible for their older dogs, and have put together our top tips for caring for senior pets below.
How to make an old dog comfortable
If you had an older dog as a child, you probably remember your parents carrying them up the stairs, lifting them into the car or picking them up when they slipped on the floor. Watching your dog grow old is never easy, but you can make them more comfortable at home by making a few changes to adapt to their new reality.
Senior dog essentials
- A comfortable bed that supports their joints and hips
- Raised feeding bowls
- Ramps may be needed to get in and out of the car
- Special dog food, treats and natural supplements like our Organic Dog Food Topper: Senior Blend
- If you have hardwood, lino or tiled floors, rugs may be needed to prevent slipping
Senior dog supplements
Senior dogs need support to live a healthy life as they age, as their body functions start to slow.
Good herbs for senior dogs
In older animals, herbs are especially useful for providing additional support to body functions that have become less efficient.
Adaptogenic herbs – which are said to help the body adapt, adjust and recalibrate itself – are great for long-term use and are among some of the most beneficial for ageing dogs.
For many years, people have used the roots and tomato-like fruit of Withania somnifera, known commonly as ashwagandha, for medicinal purposes. The herb is also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry and is from an annual evergreen shrub in the nightshade family. It grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.
Ashwagandha means “strength of a horse” and, according to Dr Nick Thompson, “It’s probably one of the most useful for when we are looking at the older dog.
“If your dog is suffering from weakness, then it might be a very useful herb to be thinking about.”
Echinacea (purple coneflower) is commonly used when you’re coming down with a cold, as it’s thought to boost the immune system. It can be a great herb to use to supplement your older dog.
Some studies show that echinacea can extend lifespan and reduce the growth of cancer cells, but it’s also important to check with your vet before giving this herb to your dog, as some are prone to allergic reactions.
Boswellia, also known as frankincense, is an anti-inflammatory herbal extract taken from the Boswellia serrata tree.
According to a Swiss study of 29 dogs with manifestations of chronic joint and spinal disease, they saw, “A statistically significant reduction of severity and resolution of typical clinical signs in individual animals, such as intermittent lameness, local pain and stiff gait, were reported after 6 weeks.”
What age is considered a senior dog?
Dogs typically enter their senior years between the ages of seven and ten. Their hair, especially around the muzzle, will usually start to go grey as part of the natural ageing process.
Tips for senior pets
Make sure your older pup lives their best life and is happy and healthy when they're older.
Here are some tips to care for your furry friend in their golden years.
1. Visit the vet regularly
If you take your dog to the vet annually, consider going twice a year for a check-up when they’re in their senior years.
2. Take good care of their teeth
Ageing dogs have an increased risk of gum disease and cracked teeth, which are both painful conditions. Keep an eye on their teeth and consider adding a good quality seaweed meal to their diet to manage plaque.
3. Keep them well-groomed
Older dogs suffer from dry skin and find grooming themselves more difficult. Proper nail care also reduces the risk of slipping.
Exercise for senior pets
Just like humans, dogs need exercise to stay happy and healthy.
Growing older can slow even the most active dogs down. As well as bringing new challenges to their health, such as aches and pains, joint problems, and arthritis.
If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, your vet may recommend nutraceuticals such as fish oil or herbal supplements.
Moderate exercise is great for senior dogs, especially those with arthritis.
Walking senior dogs
Taking them for regular, low-impact walks is a great way to keep them active.
Hydrotherapy for senior dogs
Swimming is also a great exercise for older dogs and can gently target any number of joint problems.
Mental stimulation for senior dogs
Just like you, your dog gets bored and needs to be stimulated mentally to stay alert. Toys are a great way to keep them on their toes and there are plenty of them that are made especially for older dogs.
How to show your old dog you love them
Caring for an ageing dog is more than just making them physically comfortable. Giving extra love and care is one of the best ways to give them a wonderful life as they grow old.