November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, a time to help our elderly furry friends find their forever homes. If you’re planning to adopt a dog, it’s certainly worth considering a perfectly adoptable senior pooch with plenty of love to give.
As with humans, aging is inevitable. Dogs are typically considered to be seniors when they’re about 7 years old, though this can vary by breed. As your pup grows up, you’ll notice gradual changes in his appearance and behavior. As a pet owner, understanding common senior dog health issues will help you to better prepare for caring for your senior dog.
Some pet parents worry about the difficulties involved with training an adult dog, since puppies are often seen as “blank slates.” However, many adult dogs are already potty trained and have a basic understanding of simple commands.
If your older dog is having bathroom accidents in the house, keep in mind that it may not be due to rebellious behavior or a lack of training. Some dogs may lose control of their bladder and bowels as their organs, muscles, and nerves age.
Never punish an elderly pup for going indoors, especially if he can’t help it. This will only increase his anxiety surrounding the issue and make him less likely to communicate his needs in the future. Be patient with your pooch. Offer him more frequent bathroom breaks throughout the day; you may even want to invest in some indoor potty pads. Your vet may also be able to prescribe medication to help with bladder and bowel control.
Hearing & Vision Loss
Dogs rely heavily on their senses. If one starts to fade, they tend to compensate with others (such as that incredible sense of smell). For that reason, it may be hard to notice at first if your senior dog is gradually losing his vision or hearing.
You may notice that it’s increasingly difficult for Fido to play fetch or find a treat; perhaps you’re wondering whether he’s ignoring you or simply can’t hear you. If you’re unsure about your dog’s senses, a vet will be able to determine any deficiencies.
If your dog is losing his vision or hearing, be patient with him—it’s even more frustrating for him than it is for you. For a dog who is having trouble seeing, refrain from rearranging your furniture if possible, and remove any hazardous items from his path. Never sneak up on your dog, either; always give some sort of warning that you’re approaching so that he isn’t startled if you begin petting him.
As your dog gets older, you may notice a gradual increase in “senior moments:” disorientation, confusion, seemingly random wandering or pacing, social withdrawal, and changes in sleeping patterns. Canine cognitive dysfunction is often subtle at first but progresses over time.
The best way to avoid cognitive issues is to ensure mental stimulation, regular exercise, socialization, a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, and minimal stress from puppyhood to adulthood. However, once your dog begins exhibiting signs of cognitive decline, it is unfortunately irreversible.
A consistent routine is crucial for all dogs, but especially so for pups who are prone to confusion and disorientation. Exposure to sunlight helps to keep the mind alert, so plan for a lot of daytime activities. In some cases, a vet may be able to provide medications or supplements that can help with managing symptoms.
Joint and Mobility Issues
Older dogs often experience a loss of lubrication and damage to joint cartilage, which results in joint discomfort and stiffness, and difficulties with mobility. Joint and mobility issues generally happen gradually over time, so pay attention to your pup’s potentially changing abilities as he gets older so you can offer the necessary joint care.
Be aware of your dog’s limits, and avoid pushing him too hard. During training sessions, walks, playtime, and outdoor adventures, offer plenty of breaks. For some dogs, it’s best to do more frequent, shorter walks rather than one or two long walks per day.
Keep an eye on your dog’s weight, too. Senior dogs are prone to weight gain, which can put added stress on the joints. Talk to your vet if you’re unsure whether it’s time to put your dog on a senior-specific diet to keep his weight under control.
Dog joint supplements and vet-prescribed medications can also help to alleviate the issues. Pet Honesty’s Senior HempMobility Chews support healthy joint function in senior dogs by providing connective tissue support, promoting cartilage development, and easing joint stiffness to enhance mobility.
Lumps and Bumps
Senior dogs are likely to get lumps and bumps such as warts, moles, and tumors on their bodies, some of which are more concerning than others. Even if they are not a cause for concern, some growths may simply be uncomfortable for your pooch and worth getting surgically removed.
Regular home health checks are a good way to monitor your dog for any abnormalities—plus, they can be a nice, relaxing way to spend some quality time with your furry friend. If you notice anything that shouldn’t be there, talk to your vet to determine whether it’s benign or a sign of something more serious.
For dogs who experience skin issues as a result of seasonal allergies, try Senior Allergy Support Chews to support your senior dog’s skin and immune system.