Sometimes it's the white heart-face and other times it's noticing your Greyhound is lagging behind or not chasing that squirrel as much as before, and you realize that time is catching up with your pup. As dogs age, their health care needs change too. Aging is a natural process and there are many things that you can do to help your senior dog stay healthy and happy in the later years of life.
We’ve all heard that one dog year is equal to 7 human years, but that’s not exactly true. Big dogs like Greyhounds are considered seniors at 6-7 years old, while small dogs like Italian Greyhounds are considered seniors at 9-10 years old. Just like us, as dogs get older, they become more susceptible to certain illnesses and ailments but you can take action to help them stay healthy and happy well into their golden years.
1. VETERINARIAN VISITS
Once a dog is considered a senior, they should get wellness checks at the veterinarian twice a year. The purpose of these wellness exams is to do three things:
- Promote your dog’s health and longevity by keeping up with preventive care, such as dental checks, parasite prevention, vaccinations, and nutrition advice.
- Recognize and control your pup’s health risks.
- Detect any illnesses at their earliest stages, which may improve treatment options.
It is helpful to focus on your pup’s regular behaviors and tell the vet if you’ve observed any recent changes that may indicate a developing health concern. Just paying attention to your dog’s actions/demeanor is one of the most important things you can do. Most veterinarians agree that baseline laboratory tests should be performed at least once a year in adult dogs, and more frequently in senior dogs. These baseline screenings allow your vet to monitor any developing trends in your dog’s health status as it changes from year to year.
2. NUTRITIONAL CONCERNS
Foods designed for senior dogs often have less fat, but not lower protein levels. Ask your vet to recommend a senior dog food formula for your dog. Smaller, more frequent meals are often easier on a senior dog’s digestive system. There are also special dental specific formulas to accommodate dogs that have lost many teeth or have other mouth or gum problems.
Don't economize: Feed your hound high quality food formulated for older dogs. Pay attention to the ingredients, avoiding by-products and opting for premium proteins.
3. ADJUST YOUR HOME ENVIRONMENT
Older dogs can’t regulate their body temperature as well as they could in their younger days. It is important to keep your dog warm, dry, and indoors when he’s not out getting his exercise. Senior canines are also more sensitive to heat and humidity, so protect them from conditions in which they may overheat.
If your Greyhound has arthritis, he may prefer a ramp instead of walking up the stairs, extra blankets on his bed, or even a new bed designed to promote orthopedic health. If your dog suffers from vision loss, it’s a good idea to ease his anxiety by keeping floors clear of clutter, and try to make sure the common areas indoors and out are well-lit. These little things add up.
Some mobility issues can be handled with various remedies that are easily available. Rubber mats or rugs help prevent slipping in areas of the house that might have a slick floor. Paw protection (ointment and/or special gripping socks, such as Power Paws https://bit.ly/Power-Paws) also help manage slippery floors. A rear-end harness can help lift your dog’s rear if their back legs are weak. You can DIY a temporary one with a towel or take a sturdy canvas shopping bag and cut the sides off, leaving just the front, back, bottom and handles attached. A shorter leash is good to keep your dog closer to you.
4. HELP YOUR DOG STAY ACTIVE
Maintain a regular exercise regimen to preserve your dog’s strength and mobility. As your dog ages, you may need to adjust exercise and play to suit his changing abilities, but continue to find ways to keep your dog appropriately active. As your dog’s hearing, vision and coordination dulls, organize exercise activities in safe, contained environments. That may mean moving furniture, finding areas with non-slip flooring, or limiting activity to fenced, familiar areas rather than venturing to public spaces. Adjust the intensity to match the dog's physical tolerance. Use food puzzle toys to stimulate him mentally and help control his weight. Be aware of potential hearing and vision loss and always keep the dog leashed when outdoors.
5. BE PREPARED FOR ACCIDENTS
As a dog ages, its bladder control will not be what it might have once been. Use puppy pads or old blankets to line the bedding or crates of senior dogs that begin to show signs of incontinence. Find a waterproof dog bed liner so that accidents do not absorb into the padding. Keep a second cover on hand so that you can easily swap them out for washing. Take your dog on frequent bathroom breaks to allow it to relieve itself before a full bladder causes problems. Give your dog many opportunities to go outside during the day. Schedule a sitter to take the dog outside if you cannot, as the dog can't hold it. A puppy pad by the door might help if he can’t wait. If the dog leaks during naps or overnight, be prepared with clean dog bedding. Be kind if your pup leaves a mess; it's as emotionally distressing for him as it is bothersome for you.
Getting regular vet checkups helps give your fur baby a long and happy life. And just because your dog is starting to slow down, does not mean that you need to stop doing the activities you both love and enjoy. They may be less active, but an older dog can still enjoy going for walks, playing with other dogs and checking out new places and smells. Every stage of a dog's life comes with a mix of fun and struggles, but one thing is always true — he's your best friend and loves every moment you spend together!
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