Caring for an elderly dog can be hard. Not only do you have to adjust to new tasks, potential new illnesses and medications, and show extra love and patience, but it also might be harder emotionally.
Watching your beloved pet wind down isn’t always easy, but older dogs can make some of the best companions around. After all, you two have spent this long together—nobody knows you better.
Here are some tips to make caring for your dog as they age a little bit easier.
Create a New Schedule
Maybe you already have a routine set with your pet, or maybe you used to when they were a puppy but that’s kind of fallen by the wayside over time. Either way, now is a good time to establish a new routine that fits your dog’s age and lifestyle.
As dogs get older they are prone to accidents, so you might need to swap the hikes and long runs for a couple of smaller walks or outside trips.
Your dog may also be on meds that they need to take with food, so you may need to give smaller, more frequent meals as well.
As with any adjustment to a schedule, start slow and make incremental changes. You don’t want to stress out your dog while you’re trying to help.
Schedule Regular (More Frequent) Vet Visits
Just like with any living creature, the longer your dog lives, the more health problems begin to appear.
Certain breeds are prone to develop joint problems and tooth problems as they age and need extra close care and attention.
You may have skipped some annual vet visits in the past, but make time (and budget for) more frequent visits now.
It’s better to get ahead of problems before they become something larger. If your pet doesn’t have any pre-existing conditions, it may be a good time to look into pet insurance or wellness plans to offset the costs.
Look Into a More Age-Appropriate Diet
As your pet ages, they have different dietary needs. They may need softer food or smaller portions. They may also start losing their appetites and need higher calorie meals. Talk to your vet about a diet appropriate for your senior dog.
You might also want to look into supplements like glucosamine for joint health.
If your dog is starting to have problems with overeating or maybe they have gotten on the heavier side as they’ve aged, try getting them a new food dish to help slow their eating.
You can even try supplementing one of their meals with a baked sweet potato or some ground turkey to give them a little vitamin boost.
Make Your Home a Little More Accessible
Oftentimes older pets lose their hearing and/or their sight, as well as a range of mobility. Look around your house and think of ways to make your home a little more accessible for your older buddy.
If they sleep with you at night, get them some dog steps or a ramp. If they are beginning to lose their sight, put out some extra night lights to the house so they can see a little better.
You might also want to have a clean up kit ready to go in some areas—older dogs can sometimes require a little extra clean up.
Look into Comfort Care
Have you always been one to spoil your dog? Look into doggie massages or acupuncture to help ease the pain and inflammation with aging.
Change your morning run to a dip in the pool during the summer to help relieve some joint pressure.
If these seem a little too extreme for you, look into something as simple as getting them a more supportive dog bed. Some little comforts go a long way!
Make a Plan for Future Arrangements
As gloomy as this sounds, it’s often easier to make plans ahead of time than when the hardest moment comes.
Talk with your vet about signs to know when your pet should be put down, or think about if that’s the route you would like to take.
Make arrangements with them for the future so you don’t have to when the time comes.
Will you cremate them or do you plan to bury them? Where would you like to bury them when that happens? As sad as it may be to think of these things, you’ll be glad later down the line when you’re dealing with grief.
Keep Doing the Things You Love to Do Together
Even though your dog is getting older, it doesn’t mean they can’t still have adventures with you. They just might need to be modified a bit.
The mile-long runs may turn into a long walk around the block. Hiking may become just a trip to the park.
No matter how old or young they are, all dogs of any age still love a good snuggle session and a movie night in, especially if they come with treats!
Most importantly, love and support your dog every day. Cherish every moment with your special pup, showing them how much you care. Even if your dog can’t be with you forever, you can make every moment count!