Remember the day those little paws made their way into your home for the first time? That exciting moment where you finally became a dog parent and a great relationship was born? You’ll got through the potty training and other ‘teething’ issues, and now give each other high-fives all the time! As each day passes, you can’t seem to remember a life without your furry BFF.
As time goes by and routine kicks in, you often don’t realize that your pet is ageing. Did you know that your dog ages a lot faster than you do and the signs aren’t always noticeable? In fact, a lot of pet parents misinterpret these signs of raging as their pet developing an ‘attitude problem’ or not loving them anymore! This is not true at all. Your dog is just going through a transition into adulthood, and here are aspects you should know about so that you can help your not-so-lil one deal with this phase of their life better.
Their heightened sense of smell, sight and hearing starts diminishing
When you keep calling your dog but he won’t respond, he probably can’t hear you. Sometimes, when you suddenly pet your dog from behind, and he gets startled and snaps, he probably didn’t hear you approach! While this may be frustrating for you, it is more so for your dog as they need to cope with this weakening of their senses on all fronts.
Their loss of vision especially can be extremely tricky. They may be missing their water bowl and splashing all around, or misjudging the position of their food bowl and making a mess. As all of these changes are occurring simultaneously yet subtly, you may feel like your dog is becoming aggressive or misbehaving. Consulting a vet can help diagnose a vision problem. If your dog’s vision is diminishing, you can take certain steps such as making their surroundings clutter free and ensuring that there are no sharp corners around to avoid injuries. Quick tip: You could even add differently textured rugs in different parts of your home, so your dog can feel the rug and know what room he is in.
Anxiety tends to get the better of them
Senior dogs find it harder to deal with stress than their younger counterparts. Issues such as meeting new people or being around big groups of people now cause them anxiety. They may even develop a sense of separation anxiety when you are asleep or in the next room. The most important thing to remember is to be patient with them. Any situation that is slightly different than usual will make them hyper and uncomfortable.
You can reduce their anxiety levels by creating a fixed daily routine and sticking to it so your dog can know what to expect from his day. Also, mentally stimulate them by going for short walks or playing periodically throughout the day, and keep them away from strangers and large social gatherings. Also, remember that your dog can always pick up on your mood, so be patient and true in your efforts or your mood will play on his anxiety.
Their metabolism no longer matches their appetite
The older we get, the more our metabolism slows down until we no longer burn calories like we used to. Our dogs are no different. While they still love their treats and would never say no to a bite of anything you are eating, their body cannot handle it now. Obesity is a very common problem amongst senior dogs and this leads to so many other problems such as the inability to move, joint pain, heart and liver problems, etc. In order to avoid this, as your dog starts getting older, gradually decrease the number of treats you feed him in a day. It would also be wise to shift his diet onto food created especially for senior dogs. These are created to have fewer calories and more fibre and nutrients essential for an ageing dog.
They’re just like untrained puppies
When your puppy came home, he was an untrained, excited ball of energy. You had to go through the process of training him. Often, as they grow older, dogs seem to forget some of their most basic lessons. Their loss of bladder control could lead to pee accidents. Or maybe, they just sometimes forget they need to go outside to do their business. Sometimes, they may get lost in a familiar place or forget familiar faces, and become a bit aggressive due to their feeling of helplessness. Embrace this change and help your dog rebuild their confidence in you, and trust that you will be there with them trough these confusing times.
Identify music, food or activities that calm your dog in their phases of anxiety. If they make a mistake, patiently deal with the situation, explaining to them that they made a mistake instead of of punishing them and increasing their anxiety.
Everything is probably hurting
Apart from obesity, another common problem amongst older dogs is arthritis and joint pain. This makes the simplest of tasks difficult for them. The pain can cause them to be disinterested in all the things they once loved to do such as running around chasing you, playing, and walking outside.
There are ways to work around this. Consult your vet for options to ease your dog’s pain. Take them for shorter walks and allow them to rest when they want to during any activity. Avoid activities that could aggravate the pain.
From changing their diet to understanding their needs, there are many ways to help your dog transition into the ‘senior citizen’ phase pf their life. Understand the symptoms and accept them. Show them that you are part of their journey and remember to be patient through the process. After all, you both made a promise of being friends for a lifetime, no?