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Responsible Ownership
Caring For Senior Dogs
by Kelly Marshall
When a dog gets older he or she may become less active, but this does not mean that
they stop being your companion.  Senior dogs, which are often defined as dogs over
seven years of age, are more likely to have health issues.  By providing your dog a good
diet and exercise your dog can live long and healthy life.  Dogs have a hard time
understanding that they are older and cannot behave like they used to.  Therefore, dog
owners should be understanding and patient when it comes to physical tasks.  Dogs
have a very high tolerance for pain and will keep doing whatever the owner asks even if
it is extremely painful.  Not being able to identify pain can cause a dog to receive
unnecessary injury.  Some of these injuries can cripple or mame a dog.  Dogs that are
severely injured may have to be put down.  Therefore, it is very important to
continuously check the dog for injury when exercising or playing.

Important information to know when caring for your dog is:      
  • The most common problem in older dogs is hearing loss. An easy way to test your
    dog's hearing is by approaching him or her when they are sleeping or when their
    attention is somewhere else. Standing in their line of sight and ensuring they can
    see you.  The dog owner should then call the dog by their name in a normal, low
    voice and watch for a response. Continue to call their name at intervals as you
    step closer or further away form them.  With each step see if the dog can hear
    you, if not continue call the dogs name until the dog hears you.  This allows you
    to identify at what range your dog can hear.  When giving commands make sure
    to stay in the range of the dogs hearing.  Another good idea is to use hand
    signals with voice commands.   Hand signals are also very important when caring
    for dogs that have hearing loss.  As the hearing loss progresses the dog owner
    can rely on hand signals alone to give the dog commands.  This can ensure that
    dog and owner still have good communication.

  • Another very important thing to look for is to monitor your dog's dental hygiene
    and diet. When dogs become older they may loose their teeth.  Toy and small
    breeds are more susceptible to loosing teeth, but it happens in all breeds.  If
    your dog looses their teeth you may need to find other ways of feeding your dog
    such as switching foods. There are many comparable soft foods on the market
    that can help your dog with their health issues.  If you choose not to change to
    soft foods you can soften hard food with some warmed broth.  This allows the
    dog to have the ability to eat their usual brand with fewer possibility of being
    injured or choking.   When dogs become less active they can gain weight.  Dogs
    that have excessive weight gain can become sluggish and develop other
    complicated problems. In order to prevent this you should cut down on how much
    and how often you feed your dog.  Smaller portions along with regular exercise
    can help your dog maintain a healthy weight for their breed and build.

  • Slower, longer exercise is better than highly intensive exercise times. Dogs that
    are older enjoy longer brisk walks.  Longer walks can improve the better overall
    conditioning than those that have a very short intense run or a game of fetch.
    Older dogs have a harder time performing intense runs because they may have
    pain in their joints.  Both are excellent exercise options, but you need to
    remember that having a good solid exercise base is the key.  Many dog breeds
    are not naturally playful and they need to have regular exercise because they do
    not naturally perform this behavior on their own.

  • Arthritis and stiffness of muscles and joints is one of the first signs of aging in
    many dogs. Arthritis reduces your pet’s range of motion and activity level.  
    Arthritis can also increase injury.  Most injuries occur by slipping and by sitting or
    lying down on tile or hardwood floors.  If dogs are prone to slipping there are
    many products that can be purchased to alleviate areas in your home that are
    slippery.  Another good idea is to purchase non-skid mats.  These mats provide
    traction to allow the dog ease when getting up and lying down.
Many individual feel that caring for senior dogs is extremely difficult.  But, if you follow
the steps provided in this article you can make the experience easier for you and your
dog.  Senior dogs will continue to be an active part of the family, just remind kids and
others that the dog is older and may need more rests, more attention and more sleep
than he or she has in the past.  The key is to have enjoyed your dog for many years as
well as provide the best diet and exercise plan for your dog.

Article by Kelly Marshall of
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