What do I need to know about older dogs?(7 Posts)
I've been approached by our local shelter as they have a 10 year old dog that has recently arrived after their owner died. It's the same (rare-ish) breed as one of our dogs, so they know I have experience in the breed.
I'm quite ok with the idea of taking him except for I have literally no experience in older dogs. Our eldest dog is only 4. Any advice on what I should be thinking about before bringing the old man home?!
It just depends how fit it is...10 can be middle aged or ancient depending on the dog.
Also depends on the breed - my older girl is 9, and starting to show signs of her twilight years approaching, but the life expectancy is 10-12, so it's not surprising. Terriers can be just warming up at 10.
The difference between my two dogs (9 and 5) is that the older one is stiffening up a bit with arthritis, so is slower on walks, gets tired more easily, and sleeps more. She has senior dog food (lower calorie/supplemented), and Yumove joint supplements, and i've just got her a memory foam bed to make her more comfortable when she's napping. You have to strike a balance between keeping them active, and not overdoing it - it's important not to let weight creep up on older dogs, because of joint issues, but also not to over exercise. It's getting to the point where I might have to start exercising my two separately, to make sure they're both getting the right amount of walking. She can sometimes get a little bit grumpy with the younger dog, which is understandable if she's a bit achey, and he's still quite bouncy.
Um, what else? I suppose the older they are, the more things can start to go wrong/wear out, but generally if he's been given a clean bill of health by the rescue vet, it's just a case of playing things by ear, and letting him settle into a routine he feels happy with. I don't think dogs have the same sense of ageing as we do. I think it's really lovely that you're giving an older boy a second home - he must have been very sad and disorientated to lose his owner at quite an advanced age.
The average life span of this breed is 12-13 years (I had to google that. I didn't actually know!), so I guess he's getting towards the end of his life?
Thanks Frances, that's the kind of thing I need to know. Our 2nd dog is a breed that naturally doesn't exercise well, so I'm thinking if I exercise Dog 2 and Rescue Dog together and then give Dog 1 the longer walk he needs due to being younger of the breed, that would work.
I know the Rescue Dog doesn't have bladder issues yet. It's not that big a deal as we keep our dogs, for the main part, in the "open" part of the house (ie family room/dining room/kitchen) that's all wooden floors. But, are bladder issues a definite in an older dog or is it luck of the draw?
It depends very much on the breed. We currently have a houseful of senior greyhounds, and through my volunteering and our business I meet a lot of very elderly greys, lurchers and Staffies. 10 for any of these breeds is just late middle aged.
In general terms, I'd say don't give up on senior dogs - they can often suffer from expectations that are too low. We had a 12 year old greyhound who did his KC GC Gold Award. Ours all enjoy varied activities, and I'm taking two to classes at the moment - we are doing Rally. At a recent Rally event, I saw a beautiful 14 year old dog doing its test - very inspiring. We also do regular lure coursing, sighthound playgroup, sighthound agility, dog shows, greyhound walks, and ours also have an additional role as supermodels for our business, as well as ambassadorial duties at rescue events.
Health wise - do everything you can to maximise their good health. Pay close attention to diet, environment, weight, preventive health care (worming, vax, teeth etc). Do not skimp on annual visits or general vet care - with oldies (as with pups) they can go downhill much faster if ill, and find it harder to recover, so I always err on the side of caution and where I might not see the vet with a younger dog, will do with a senior. It's so important to have a relationship of trust and respect with your vet - discuss, ask questions, and if they have chronic conditions such as arthritis, make sure that you and your vet in partnership are regularly reviewing the condition and how you are managing it.
Chronic pain is not and should not be part of ageing, and modern vet care can do so much for conditions like arthritis.
Seniors bring a very special gift with them. We do not know how long we'll have with them, but that just encourages us to treat every single day as special and joyful.
Just wanted to add that WRT bladder issues, it is not necessarily an issue with older dogs. Any sudden changes could be due to a bladder infection, and there is medication available which can often help with more chronic continence issues.
None of our four have bladder issues currently, nor any of our previous oldies (obviously, excepting poonamis when ill!).
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