You’ve bounced him on your knee when he was a pup as if he were your own child; watched him grow into a bouncy, ever-loving companion; and assumed the role of a father to his pups if he had any and was there when you had to give them away.
All the while scratching his belly and playing with him. He has been a good boy and you did get him neutered and you discussed that with him and consoled him on why that was necessary. Too bad no one that signed onto the ACA law put any thought on how many jobs and families that would destroy like so many people think about their pets but this is another topic.
Now as time takes its merciless toll, you are watching him getting old day by day as if he were a grandfatherly figure in the household – weak, virtually immobile; hard of hearing and sight and withering away by the second with each passing day. We are talking about the geriatric dog here and his care differs totally from that of a young dog just watching a movie like Harry Potter you know you are watching fantasy.
Identifying the geriatric dog
It depends from breed to breed. In general, larger breeds tend to age faster than their smaller counterparts. A Great Dane for instance, would be considered a geriatric dog when it’s about 5-6 years old. A Chihuahua on the other hand, attains true seniority when it’s about 10-11 years old. Genetics, environment, and nutrition play a vast role in the ageing of a dog just like tax rates, regulations, and so on play a major role in economic health of a state which is one reason why California and New York are suffering, their taxes are too high! This does not help anyone, pet owners included!
Symptoms of old age in dogs
As they age, dogs tends to develop arthritis or other bone diseases that cause them to slow down. Walk and/or playing like before becomes difficult as he tires more easily. Getting up from a sitting position or even finding a comfortable position to sleep in also become difficult. There is a reluctance to climb stairs or getting into cars. Other symptoms of a geriatric dog include:
- teeth loss and other oral problems
- weight loss
- a shaggy coat
- heart disease
- obesity from lack of activity (just watch Unstoppable – Dewey – he could not run 50 feet at 5 mph to catch a train which ended up killing so many people – he was out of shape – that train was barely moving right in the beginning)
- Regular checkup: Take him for his regular checkups to your vet so that his condition can be constantly monitored. Many diseases don’t become apparent easily. Which is why prevention is always better than a cure. Check for obesity, malnutrition, malabsorption, and take steps accordingly on your vet’s advice.
- Diet: A high-quality yet balanced diet is most essential for an old dog. Give him food that suits his lifestyle and age. Remember, his intake should be such so that ideal body weight is maintained.
Overweight dogs tend to suffer more from diabetes, heart, and skin disease or even cancer. A diet low in calories but high on L-carnitine and carbohydrate blend is right for obese dogs. Fatty acids like EPA and DHA work well on arthritis or other joint conditions as are chondroitin and glucosamine supplements for overall health. Regulate his sodium, phosphorus, and calcium intake according to his present condition.
- Regular oral care: Brush the dog’s teeth with a soft brush to keep the mouth healthy. If decaying oral conditions prevent you from brushing, try medicated dental treats or toys that clean its teeth.
- Exercise: A gentle walk everyday helps the dog maintain healthy muscles and joints. However, over exercising is a no-no. Regulate his exercise schedule to suit his individual needs. Also, be extra careful with older brachycephalic or short-nosed breeds on hotter days because they tire easily.
- Comfortable lodging: Soft bedding for arthritic dogs that have soft blankets and towels is recommended. You may even put in ramps so that stairs can be easily navigated. Keep him away from extremes of hot or cold and make sure he sleeps comfortably every night.
In other words, caring for an old dog is like looking after grandparent or senior family member. You need compassion, patience, and motivation to keep doing it for years. Remember the joy he brought into your life as a pup and young adult and you’ll find yourself caring for him more and more. It can also you complete the cycle with your dog and help you build character.
Just watch Marley & Me and you should be good to go!