Health and the Older Dog – Written by Steph Tufft Veterinary Nurse,Groomer etc website
I was looking at my Ellie who is now 5 and thinking to myself that next year she will be encroaching into “older dog category”, so I thought I would do a little piece on caring for your dog as it reaches its later years, their needs and how to get the most out of life with him or her.
Interact as much as possible with, for the sake of argument, him. Dogs need us, they are not like cats, they don’t relish just being left alone or watching the world go by all day. They need mental and physical stimulation from us. It can be an easy rut to get into where they end up becoming bored with life and then, eventually, just not bothering to do things that another dog of their age, perhaps, would be doing.
Stroke them, adore them, talk to them, share your time with them. A lot of us are busy people who work all day but that doesn’t mean you cant really indulge in the free time you have outside of these hours. After all, your dog is not an ornament to be looked at, it is your friend, your companion, your dependant. By keeping your dogs mind young and active he, in turn, will remain as young and active as is possible for him.
Boredom can bring about problems as well such as hair pulling, licking and gnawing. These can then develop into ACTUAL problems with eventually need veterinary treatment such as raw skin.
Sadly another issue which most older dogs come to at the later years is a more pressing urge for urination. Its almost like going back to puppy years as you will need to be on call to whip them out for the odd pee here and there every couple of hours or so. It can be difficult in Tenerife as a lot of people have just balconies or terraces, but if you, for whatever reason, cannot let them go on this you MUST give them access to the outdoors. It can become dangerous to them otherwise. They can develop problems such as a Urinary Tract Infection. This is a build up of bacteria which, as I say, can be caused by not letting them urinate frequently enough. To prevent such problems, take them out to pee frequently and ensure they are drinking enough. Also make sure they are kept clean.
Make sure you have taken them out just before bed, last thing at night pees are very important – if you look at elderly people, they are often unable to hold it through the night and have to get up to relieve themselves. Incontinence can occur as they get older as well so by making sure he can go as often as he needs, you will make dribbles less regular .
Older dogs, especially of certain breeds, can be prone to Arthritis and stiffness. Luckily we live in a hot place so this will be significantly improved as opposed to, say, England. However it never hurts to help it a little more. We are surrounded by water and there is nothing better for a dog with bad joints than to swim or even just wade in water. It acts as a support and aids your dogs movement.
Obviously some dogs just hate water but perhaps you could slowly introduce it to them. I did this with my rescue Dobie. He went charging into the sea on his first visit to the beach and didn’t realise that the sea wasn’t ground. Before he knew it he was up to his neck and wondering what the hell happened to the floor. This put him off for a while but with a little slow encouragement he began to venture back in again.
Hydrotherapy is a great therapy for dogs though and it can make massive differences to a dogs quality of life. It is a catch 22 as although you don’t want the dog to overdo it when suffering from bad joints, the worst thing is for the dog to remain motionless or be carried everywhere.
The great thing about this island is there is a beach pretty close to us regardless of where we are. I know a lot of them are “no dogs allowed” now, but I have frequently gone down in the evening when no one is about and it is just getting dark. Or else suss out little coves, there’s loads of them about. Then, of course, there is El Medano. It will be good for you too. Time bonding with your dog, gets you out of the house and your dog is benefiting from the water therapy.
Groom your dog. You would be surprise how many people think that their dog does not need to be brushed or combed except for when they see the dog groomer. Long haired, short haired, thick coats….they all need regular grooming. Every day or couple of days. Dogs naturally lose dead hair and by combing it you are removing it from the coat and preventing build up.
As they get older their coats can become tired, greasy, dry, flaky. By keeping on top of it you can make them look their best, plus it is a great way to bond with your dog. While you are sat in front of the TV in the evening, rake a comb through their fur and enjoy each others company.
Also, in long haired dogs, ensure that their back ends are clean. As dogs get older they don’t clean as much and, if they are slightly incontinent, they will begin to smell down there. So keep it trimmed or washed as often as you can. Not only for the smell but for hygiene and illness prevention purposes.
Your dog is your best mate and won’t always be the cute puppy, or bounding teenage that he once was. But this is no reason to give up as soon as they reach middle or old age. By doing the simple things as above, you are able to keep them young. They are relatively simple creatures and human interaction is what they relish. Its what makes them into the loving, sociable friends that they are.