By Stefani Fortney, ABCDT, Groomer, and Trainer I have a senior dog. Her name is Spectre, and she’s a 10-year-old Boxer. She’s funny and sweet; sometimes she’s as playful as when she was in her prime. Most times, though, she likes to sleep and cuddle—which is absolutely fine. She’s earned her rest and her snuggles. There’s another side to my senior dog, though. That side is cranky and arthritic and stinky. Spectre limps. She snaps at the other dogs if they bother her. She has bad breath, she passes gas almost constantly, and her mouth smells like a trash can.
There are some things that I do to help maintain my senior dog’s hygiene. They help to ensure that my stinky, limping, snuggly Spectre stays as healthy and as happy as possible throughout her golden years.
Common sense ways to care for your senior dog, too.
- Grooming Brushing, nail clipping, ear cleaning, face washing, bathing and checking for bugs and stickers. Do it yourself at home, or find a groomer that you can trust. Your senior dog will thank you. You’ll be happier because it cuts down on smell, shedding, and common skin and coat problems.
- Preventive vet visits Taking your senior dog in for bloodwork, dental cleanings, and regular exams can prevent the normal issues of aging from snowballing into major, life-threatening problems.
- Flip the lip At least once a week, take a look at your senior dog’s teeth. Look for plaque build-up, bleeding or irritated gums, foreign objects stuck in teeth, and loose or broken teeth. If you find any of these issues, call your vet for an exam and schedule a dental cleaning.
- Be hands-on Be aware of changes to your senior dog’s body, skin, and coat. The easiest way to do that is to spend time every day petting your dog and paying attention. Put your hands on every part of your dog, from nose to tail. Feel between toes and check foot pads. If you find lumps, bumps, growths, or anything else that concerns you—call your vet for an exam.
- Pay attention to nutrition Feed a high-quality diet that matches your senior dog’s unique needs. Talk to your vet to figure out exactly what your dog needs from their food. A proper diet can help prevent problems like obesity, diabetes, gas, coat/skin issues, allergies, and dental disease. If your dog has specific health issues, the right diet can add years of quality life.
- Be a detective Watch for any changes in your senior dog’s behavior. I mean it. Any changes. Getting up slowly. Staring into space. Limping. Loss of appetite. Barking more. Shivering. Drinking and urinating more. Excessive panting. Incontinence. If you notice a difference, write it down. If it continues, talk to your vet. Changes in behavior can be a sign of problems like pain, vision/hearing problems, diabetes, or organ failure. Be proactive—don’t wait for the issue to resolve on its own.
Follow these six steps and enjoy life with your senior dog!