Tips on keeping them healthy
Eventually all dogs will start to show signs of slowing activity. They may sleep more; or they may lose their old enthusiasm when you announce going for a walk. But even though your dog may be slowing down a bit, there’s no reason why their later years should not also be healthy and active. So, it’s even more important to keep to the regular daily routine as much as possible so they can continue to experience a very happy, healthy life.
The fact is your Frenchie’s body condition will change as the years go by. And some bodily functions, normally taken for granted, may start to slow down or malfunction. His senses will also likely start to deteriorate, leading to impaired vision, hearing, taste and smell. His appetite may decrease leading to muscle loss and a general appearance of being thinner.
The bottom line is; senior dogs have different care requirements than younger dogs. Which simply means that we will need to modify the way we care for them. Regardless of the breed, all owners need to be aware that genetics, nutrition, and environment will all play a role in how fast your dog ages. And it’s really only the last two factors that we can influence!
What are some of the signs to look for?
The Best way is to simply observe your Frenchie’s behavior and appearance. Is your dog slowing down? They may not be able to walk as far as they used to without sitting down to rest. Their gait may appear to be more awkward. Some dogs may develop arthritis in their pelvis region which will slow them down. If they are sensitive to being touched in that area, you should get your vet to check it out.
It may be that they are just experiencing apparent stiffness in the joints and have difficulty getting up after lying down. Or they seem to have difficulty finding a comfortable position in which to sleep. They may become reluctant to go up and down stairs or show difficulty getting into and out of the car. Senior dogs do sometimes suffer from conditions relating to liver or heart disease. They may not be interested in eating and as such suffer from weight loss. On the other hand, some dogs will become less active with age, and will become more like couch potatoes, gaining weight as a result.
Other signs to watch out for include:
- Deafness, indicated by a failure to respond to commands or calling their name.
- Tooth and gum conditions. Teeth need to be checked for decay and gums for any redness indicating a form of gingivitis.
- Lumps appearing under the skin need to be checked out by your vet.
- Appearing confused or failing to recognize their surroundings
- Depression or uncharacteristic behavior which may indicate a form of dog dementia.
Stumbling into objects or the appearance of a hazy, whitish growth over the eyes (cataracts) which if left untreated may eventually lead to blindness.
When you start to spot signs that your dog is aging, there is no need to panic or worry too much. You should simply look at ways to adjust your routine to accommodate these changes and take a few precautions.
Here are some ideas that may help:
As much as possible try to keep to the same routine. This will provide your older dog with a mental and emotional base that is reassuring. If your dog has diminishing eyesight they will generally cope better if you can keep the layout of furniture and objects in the house and backyard the same.
Maintain the Exercise Routine
Even moderate exercise can help keep your older dog lean and maintain healthy joints and muscles. If you dog has arthritis, then shorter and more gentle exercise sessions will help to keep the joints lubricated and mobile. You will probably need to experiment to find just the right amount of exercise for your Frenchie.
Also keep in mind the weather conditions. On hot days watch out for heat stress.
You should have check-ups at least twice a year with your veterinarian. Make sure that you note down any changes that you may have noticed since your last visit. This will help your vet to zero in on any emerging issues early on. Ask about having a blood and urine screening test. This can help to detect the early onset of diseases like kidney or liver disease.
Maintain a High-Quality Diet
In general, senior dogs may be prone to be less active, and as a result their nutritional needs will also change. As their metabolism slows down, they will need fewer calories. However, high-quality and easy-to-digest protein is still important to maintain their overall body condition.
Whereas a younger dog may eat twice a day, you may find your older dog preferring to eat smaller meals more frequently. This is perfectly normal behavior as smaller meals become easier for them to digest.
Also, consider fortifying your senior dog’s diet with fatty acids such as DHA and EPA (fish oil). They have been shown to be useful for dogs with mobility issues due to arthritis and other joint problems. As always, be guided by a professional vet before you start any course of supplements.
Healthy Teeth and Gums
As older dogs are more prone to gum disease and tartar build-up, then in addition to the visit to the vet, it’s also a good idea for you to check your dog’s teeth and gums regularly. Try brushing your dog’s teeth. If they are not being cooperative, then consider dental treats and use a dental chew toy that will help to keep their teeth clean.
Try to understand the changes that are taking place and use it as a reminder to live in the present. Looking after a senior dog will require more patience on your part. But your love and commitment will pay off in creating a true quality of life during their senior years.
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