If you have a senior dog and are looking for suggestions on how to make your dog happy, you’ve come to the right place.
Understanding how to help their dog as it faces what could be the last years of its life can feel like a daunting task. But you are not alone — most dog owners have to face this challenging situation at some point, mainly because dogs, on average, have only 10 to 18 years to live.
Many things can help you bring out the most joy in the little time you have left with your canine friend.
Interested to know how to make dog happy? Let’s dive in!
Ensure the Best Healthcare
Different dog breeds mature at different speeds, but the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) considers a six to eight-year-old dog a senior canine.
Compared to a puppy or an adult dog, an old dog is in relatively poor health. This is because aging naturally causes structures in the body to weaken and deteriorate.
It is thus important that you take your senior dog to the vet every six months to detect and prevent illnesses. If your dog is already experiencing chronic health problems, you may have to visit more frequently so the vet can help you better manage your dog’s condition.
The American Kennel Club recommends that senior dogs visit the vet semi-annually so illnesses can be detected and treated early.
To get the best information on how to care for a senior dog, take your dog to the vet to get specialized advice. A complete wellness checkup can involve the following:
- Checking the heart and lung function by listening to heartbeat and breathing sounds
- Evaluating eyesight and hearing
- Taking note if your dog has a healthy weight, gait (how your dog walks), and stance (the way your dog stands)
- Assessing the condition of the senior dog’s eyes, ears, teeth, fur, skin, nails, and feet
- Feeling your dog’s abdomen to check if the internal organs are normal and to see if it is experiencing discomfort in these areas
- Feeling along the dog’s body to detect swelling, pain, and weakness
Senior dogs typically receive vaccines every three years, but dogs may have different vaccination requirements as they age. Talk with your vet to find a suitable vaccination program for your aging dog.
Dental and oral health is an essential part of a dog’s overall health. Providing regular oral care will prevent complications, including malnutrition. Because a dog may develop dental problems when it gets older, a vet will typically check your dog’s teeth during each visit to detect any health concerns.
Pet exams for senior dogs are more thorough than those given for younger dogs. These may include dental work, laboratory exams, and checkups to detect illnesses common to aging dogs.
Maintain Regular Grooming Sessions
Older dogs are more vulnerable to illnesses caused by parasites, so it’s recommended to groom them regularly to eliminate these pests.
It is best to get a groomer who knows how to entertain an old dog so it will enjoy the session. Inform the groomer if your dog has a medical condition or other special needs. For example, if your dog has windpipe problems, make the groomer use a harness instead of a collar.
Provide A Balance of Nutrition and Great-Tasting Food
What makes a dog happy? Well, good food can be a great starting point!
Like humans, dogs do not eat just because they are hungry and need nutrition — they also eat because they like how the food tastes! So, it’s a good idea to provide your dog with food that offers both nutrition and flavor. The fastest way to achieve this balance is to buy dog food specifically made for senior dogs.
Here are some tips for you to consider:
- Before buying any dog food product, read the nutrition information. Choose foods with low calorie and fat content to prevent your dog from gaining excessive weight. Dogs lose their ability to metabolize their food over time, so they will burn fewer calories and store more fat when they are older.
- If your dog is underweight or if you notice a decreased appetite, check whether your dog has dental problems that prevent it from chewing well and consult your vet for a proper diet plan.
- Ensure that your dog gets at least one-fourth of the calories from protein-rich sources so its body can repair and rebuild itself.
- Decrease the level of salt in your dog’s food. Too much sodium intake can cause older dogs to develop heart and kidney problems as well as high blood pressure.
- Avoid feeding your dog foods that are dangerous to their health. For instance, eating too much peas, lentils, and legumes can cause an enlarged heart. If you want to feed your dog some veggies, consider carrots or cabbages instead. But can dogs eat cabbage? Absolutely! Your pup will love chomping down both raw and cooked cabbage!
Ensure Both Physical and Mental Well-being
With age, dogs may lose their physical and mental abilities. It’s a good idea to use mentally-stimulating activities for old dogs to help them stay sharp for longer.
An elderly dog may not withstand activities that require high energy levels and stamina anymore, but they will still appreciate light playtimes. You can use puzzle toys or soft chew toys, play an easy game of fetch, or take short, leisurely walks outside to help your senior dog explore the different scents it encounters.
While you don’t have to restrain your dog from doing what it used to, you should ensure it doesn’t injure or overexert itself. However, do not force your senior dog to do something that it can’t do anymore. You will find many ways how to make an old dog happy that don’t involve stress or coercion.
Refrain from giving your old dog strenuous activities. The key to keeping it healthy is letting it exercise regularly yet lightly.
Keep Your Dog Comfortable and Safe
Senior dogs are often weaker and less alert and are more sensitive to harsh environmental elements. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make your dog comfortable.
A Comfortable Bed
Consider using a pet bed made with memory foam that adjusts to the shape of a dog’s body. A mattress that supports your dog’s weight in the right places will prevent body aches. You should also keep this bed in a place where your dog feels safe.
Maintain A Comfortable Temperature
You can use warming or cooling pads or install a room thermometer and warm or cool down the air as needed. Put a sweater and boots on your senior dog when it’s cold. And give it plenty of cool water in the summer.
Make Your Home More Accessible To Your Senior Dog
Here are some useful mobility aids that can make your dog comfortable:
- Dog stairs: They can help your dog reach spots it used to climb.
- Dog ramp: If your dog finds it hard to use stairs, get a non-skid ramp. Make sure that the slope is not too steep and can adequately support your dog’s weight.
- Dog boots: Wearing boots will help senior dogs that find it painful to walk on rough surfaces.
- Rugs: Use non-slip mats to provide your dog with a comfortable walkway.
- Pet gates: If your dog is at risk of falling, install pet gates on problem areas like stairs or other elevated places.
- Pet strollers: Take your dog for a walk even if it can’t do it on its own.
Maintain A Safe Environment
Scan your dog’s environment and remove any hazards or items that your dog can trip over. If there are any choking hazards, put these items out of your dog’s reach.
Elderly dogs may have arthritis, torn ligaments, muscle weakness, balancing problems, and aching bones and joints. Mobility aids can help your dog remain active in its golden years.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Happy?
Taking care of a senior dog doesn’t only involve keeping it healthy, comfortable, entertained, and safe. You must also know how to make your dog happy. Looking for these signs will help you tell if you are successful in making your dog happy:
- Smiling Face: A smiling dog has its mouth slightly open and with lifted corners. Its tongue may also dangle a bit. Don’t mistake smiles for bared teeth, though. A happy dog’s smile reveals only a few teeth, but an aggressive dog will have lips curled back and fully exposed teeth.
- Relaxed Eyes and Ears: Happy dogs have a soft gaze and blink often. Their ears are loose, not pricked up or pulled back.
- Bowing: A dog that brings its head and chest close to the ground and raises its rear invites you to play with it.
- Dancing: Bouncing and hopping is a dog’s way of showing its excitement.
- Relaxed Body: A relaxed body is a good sign that your dog is content. When its body is rigid, it may be feeling physical discomfort or unpleasant emotion.
- Wriggling or slightly raised tail: A wriggling or raised and wagging tail is an obvious sign of joy. However, if the tail is too high, your dog may be agitated. And if your dog tucks its tail underneath its legs, it may be fearful.
- Exposed Belly: A dog showing you its belly means it trusts you enough to reveal its vulnerable spot. This gesture is a strong signal of contentment and relaxation.
The best way to attend to a senior dog’s physical, intellectual, and psychological needs is to be attentive to its needs, which require your time, care, and patience.
Ultimately, making your dog happy means spending quality time with your dog. Even if you aren’t there 24/7, ensure that you are dedicated to providing comfort, entertainment, and love to your senior dog.