Updated: May 23
Having a dog is one of the best things in the world! But unfortunately they have one flaw – dogs age much faster than us.
An older dog’s behaviour will give you plenty of hints as to what they need, but sometimes it helps to put it into words. If your senior dog could talk, here are a few things he or she would most likely tell you:
1. ‘I can’t see as well anymore. I can’t hear as well either.’
If you think your dog is starting to ignore you, you may actually find that he simply doesn’t hear you calling, or he can’t see the ball you threw in what you thought was plain sight.
Another of the signs may initially look like aggression — if a person comes up and touches a dog without him or her noticing the approach, they may react out of defensive surprise. This could also be because the touch caused pain in arthritic or sensitive areas, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
2. ‘I am a little more anxious now.’
Senior dogs often have a harder time handling stress. Things that weren’t issues before may become so, such as separation anxiety, visitors entering the home, interacting with new dogs, new noise phobias or simply acting more irritated or agitated than usual. They might become more clingy while other dogs might want to be left to themselves more often.
Though much of this can be chalked up to dulled senses and increased pain, it’s important to rule out medical issues for anxiety. If you notice anxious or more aggressive behaviour, visit your vet and get a full examination to make sure there isn’t a pressing medical issue at the root of the changes.
If it is simply the effects of ageing, you can help reduce your dog’s anxiety by keeping floors free of clutter, taking more frequent short walks or playing games or food puzzles to increase their mental stimulation and allow them extra space away from strangers. Most importantly, you want to be as patient as possible, since your dog can still pick up on your mood and that can add to their anxiety.
3. ‘I get cold more easily now.’
There’s a reason why older dogs like warm cozy beds — it’s not as easy to regulate body temperature. A dog who used to hang out outside all day on a chilly day will likely need a sweater when out and a bit more time inside with a bed close to the heater during the colder months. Helping your dog keep their body temperature up will also help minimise joint and muscle stiffness.
4. ‘I can’t move as well as I used to because my joints are stiff and sore.’
Arthritis and joint pain are very common problems for mature dogs. Joint pain can cause a number of problems for an older dog from difficulty getting into the car or down the stairs to being able to move around in cold weather. To stave off joint issues for as long as possible, it’s a great idea to give your dog joint supplements and take them for short frequent walks.
5. ‘I may have the same appetite, but I can’t burn calories like I used to’
When humans age, our metabolism slows down and we need less food to maintain a consistent weight. It’s the same with dogs. Though they may act just as hungry and treat-crazed as ever, their body isn’t burning the calories the same way, so they gain weight. You may find it’s time to shift to dog foods designed for senior dogs, which have fewer calories, more fibre and less fat and extra nutritional supplements.
Obesity is one of the main health issues for older dogs and it can cause a myriad of other health problems from exacerbating joint pain and breathlessness to causing heart or liver issues. The reason older dogs tend to become obese is not only because their energy level and activity decrease, but also because their general caloric needs shift.
6. ‘I get confused sometimes and may forget some of our old rules.’ A slow down of cognitive ability is common with ageing. Your dog may forget simple things like how to navigate around the house or even get lost in areas he’s not familiar with or not recognise people he knows.
No matter what, if your dog starts to act strangely or has behaviour changes, have him checked out by a vet to be sure of the cause, which could be more than simply ageing. But if it does come down to getting older, you can help your dog with supplements as well as simply being more patient with them, adding mental stimulation games to your daily routine and helping them when they get confused.
7. ‘I need a little extra care in grooming these days.’
Older dogs often experience changes in skin, coat and even nails. Their skin can become dry and their coat more coarse. A tablespoon of coconut or omega oil mixed into their food can go a long way to solving the problem.
Your senior's skin can also become more thin, so they can get injured more easily. It’s important to take extra care when the dog is playing or out on a hiking trail that he isn’t hurt.
Because an older dog might not be as able to do their own grooming as thoroughly, you may need to increase how many times a week you brush their coat and increase the frequency of their baths. It’s a great opportunity to bond with one another, as well as a chance for you to check for any new lumps, bumps or pains your dog may be having that might need to be checked out.
8. 'My breath might be a bit whiffy.'
Bad breath may be a sign of gum disease, so if your dog's stinky breath becomes very noticeable, it's always advised to have their gums and teeth checked at the vet.
Though it may sound like a lot of work to care for your dog as he hits the senior years, such devotion has its own special rewards, including knowing that you’ve done everything you can for a companion that has given you so much love and joy from day one.
Our Senior treats are specially formulated to support the changing needs of older dogs and help to ease joint pain & stiffness, aid in cognitive function and help them live a full, healthy life. 💚🐾