Care for your elderly dog

As dogs age
, their needs and requirements change. Being aware of some of the changes elderly dogs go through can help you help your dog adjust, reducing his or her stress and increasing your dog's comfort and well-being. The following are some ideas for geriatric dogs’ comfort, and suggestions for when you board your older dog.

Bedding and providing comfort. Elderly dogs lose muscle mass, becoming bonier, especially on their hips. Even long-haired dogs can develop pressure sores and pain from loss of muscle. A soft pad or bed to lie on helps keep them comfortable. If your dog has difficulty rising from his bed, a firmer one, rather than a soft, bean bag type, may give helpful support. We provide raised cots and blankets for dogs staying with us, but if your dog has a special bed, please bring it for your dog’s comfort when staying with us.

Temperature regulation Older dogs with a slower metabolism may not be able to regulate their temperatures as easily as when they were younger, and may react to cold more than when they were younger. Some medications may also effect temperature regulation. As your dog ages, adapt to his needs, providing warmer bedding, a sweater or coat when he goes outside, move his bed closer to a heat source, or adjust your thermostat to maintain a comfortable temperature for your dog. 

Loss of senses Just as when people age, dogs senses deteriorate as they get older—eyesight, hearing and even cognition. Your dog may not hear you when you call, or may lose the ability to locate where the sound is coming from, and start running in the wrong direction. As you notice changes, focus on keeping your dog safe—keeping him on-leash if necessary. Also, be sure to let our staff know of any changes so we can help your dog adapt during his stay.

Incontinence Incontinence is common with many older dogs. If your dog should become incontinent, doggie diapers can help. Choose a brand without a lot of irritating Velcro that can be abrasive to an older dog's thinner skin. If you’re boarding your incontinent dog, and you bring a bed, please be sure it is washable, fitting into a standard-sized washing machine. Older dogs need comfortable bedding, and we are happy to wash it to help them be comfortable during their stay!

Changes in mobility Weakened muscles and stiff joints lead to mobility changes. Rising may take longer, and getting moving may be slow. With these changes, some dogs may have trouble holding themselves up for urination or defecation, and may not evacuate completely, which can lead to urinary tract infections. Talk with your vet about symptoms to look for, what you can do to help your dog eliminate completely, and possible medications to ease his discomfort. Please be sure to let us know about any issues that can help us care for your dog’s comfort and well-being while he or she is with us. 

Walking aids and devices There are a number of specialty harnesses, slings and wheeled devices that may help dogs that have difficulty walking, negotiating stairs, getting into the car, and the like. If you would like advice and recommendations on some of these, please ask us about them. If you use any of these devices for your dog’s mobility, please bring them for your dog's stay, and allow some extra time to show our kennel staff how they work best with your dog.

Water and food consumption Older dogs don’t require the same amount of food as younger dogs. It is important to keep your dog’s weight under control to avoid stressing weakened muscles and joints. Monitor your dog’s water consumption to make sure he is drinking water, but not too much. If your dog has balance issues, a raised water bowl and feeder may be easier for your dog. Please be sure to let us know about any dietary or other issues related to your dog’s feeding.

The more information you provide, the better we can care for your elderly dog’s comfort and well-being.

This information is provided by Gail Fisher’s All Dogs Gym & Inn, where we believe that an educated owner and an educated dog are the best ingredients for a lifetime of mutual enjoyment.