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Hosting an Older Dog? Understanding the Unique Needs of Older Dogs vs. Puppies
Caring for an elderly dog is very different from caring for a puppy. Both have the same general needs, but the way in which they need to be cared for is very different. If you are hosting an older dog, you may want to consider the following before bringing the elderly dog into your home.
Elderly Dogs in Different Breeds
Different breeds of dogs, as you likely know, age at different speeds. Generally speaking, the smaller the breed of the dog, the longer the life expectancy. A Great Dane, for example, can be considered a senior dog as young as 5 or 6, but a smaller breed of dog like a Chihuahua isn't considered elderly until they reach ten years old. This is because of the health problems that are a tendency in large dog breeds. Puppies, who require your constant attention, adoration, and guidance, are much different from elderly dogs, who often prefer to have their alone time for naps or resting. Watching elderly dogs, however, can be just as strenuous as watching puppies.
Symptoms of Slowness in Senior Dogs
Dogs tend to slow down as they get older. This can often be due to their energy levels waning, but other times their overall slowness can be a symptom of a bigger problem: arthritis. Arthritis is a painful conditional that involves inflammation of the joints. If you suspect the senior dog you are hosting may have arthritis, pay attention to see if he is favouring one limb over another, has difficulty laying down or getting up, or seems hesitant with situations that require more activity and movement.
Keeping the Dog Active
Although it seems to pain the elderly pooch, it is important to ensure exercise is a part of his daily routine, even if that means taking it slow. To avoid weight gain, which would only add extra pressure to the joints, ensure the older dog is staying active with walks. There are many medications that the dog's owner can investigate in consultation with a veterinarian, but you should never give human medication - such as Advil or Tylenol - to your host dog. Ensure that you keep daily walks in the pooch's routine, but don't wear him out with too much activity, and be mindful of his sore spots.
Adjusting the Dog’s Diet
Diet is also an important part to caring for a dog with arthritis; professionals often recommend a low-calorie diet, and adding ingredients like cooked cabbage, greens and carrots to the pet's nutritional regime. Simply purchasing a "senior" brand of dog food can also help, as these are designed with a low-calorie diet in mind. At times elderly dogs can have trouble eating if their teeth or gums aren't in the best condition; you can soak the dog kibble in warm water to soften it for him. If needed, you may need to encourage the pooch to eat by hand feeding him, kibble by kibble. Caring for older dogs is much different than caring for puppies, and it requires added care and attention to the dog's overall health. Rough time with the pooch should be scaled back, but just as any animal, the love and affection of the dog owner is still very much needed.
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