Dog Owner's Guide

Special Section: Caring for a senior dog

Most dogs are considered elderly once they turn 8, but dogs of larger breeds can be considered elderly at ages between 5 and 7 years. If you have an elderly dog you will have to monitor him more closely as his health and strength will begin to weaken. His organs and body functions will start to slow down and his eyesight and hearing will be affected as well. You will need to watch him closely when he is outdoors or around stairs. Regular visits to the veterinarian will also ensure that any health complications can be detected and treated early.

What owners should look out for:

Arthritis
Look out for symptoms like limping and difficulty in running or moving quickly. Arthritis causes joint pain and stiffness in dogs and can be helped by non-strenuous exercise, medicine and nutritional supplements.

Kidney failure
Symptoms include excessive thirst, excessive urination, weight loss, fatigue and bruising. Aging slows down kidney function and this can result in chronic renal failure. Do visit for veterinarian immediately if you suspect you dog has kidney problems.

Skin disorders
Look out for any changes in fur or skin condition while you are grooming your dog. If your dog's skin looks dry or irritated you should consult your veterinarian for a suitable treatment.

Urinary incontinence
This could be a sign of a problem with your dog's nervous system. Dogs with this condition are more prone to develop urinary tract infections as well. A veterinarian will be able to prescribe medicine to treat your dog's incontinence and there are also products like doggy diapers available to help owners clean up easily.

Heightened sensitivity
As dogs age, their ability to regulate their own body temperature is lessened. Ensure that your elderly dog is not placed in areas with extreme temperatures. Give him a warm bed with blankets to sleep in during cold nights and lots of water to drink on hot days.

Reduced activity levels
Older dogs are less energetic and tend to spend more time sleeping than in their younger days. Since there are using up less energy, you will need to adjust their diet to suit their new lifestyle. Older dogs need a well balanced diet that is lower in calories, but still has adequate protein and fat, and is higher in fiber.

Supplements
You may want to give your older dog supplements to help their bodies deal with all the physical changes that come about with aging. If your dog has weak joints, give him a supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin. If your dog has constipation occasionally, give him a fiber supplements, such as wheat bran.