It’s no secret that we love our pets!

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households own a pet and for most of us, it’s safe to say that our animals are very much a part of the family.

But when it comes to senior pets, all too often the love that was once given to a dog or cat seems to fade with time. Many people adopt pets when they’re young, only to discover that they’re unable or unwilling to deal with the changes that take place when an animal transitions from a cute ball of fluff into a fully grown pet, and finally into an older dog. Additionally, when it comes to renting, the challenges of finding pet-friendly accommodation can cause tenants with pets to feel that they have no choice but to give up their pets when it comes time to move.

Regardless of the reason, though, animals often end up in shelters –and many of these animals are senior dogs. These dogs are likely to spend up to four times as long waiting for a home than more energetic and lively ones. Often, these animals end up getting passed over time and time again, and eventually, they are put down. In the U.S., Approximately 167,000 shelter animals are euthanized every year –many of these will be senior dogs.

While senior dogs might not have the energy and spunk of a young pup, these dogs still have plenty of personality and lots of love to give. You should also consider that most of these older animals will have already been housebroken, with their destructive days usually long behind them. They also typically require less exercise and have fewer behavioral issues than a younger pup as well. All they ask is for a comfy bed, a bowl of kibble, and a few snuggles. Who can say no to that?

If you’re thinking about adopting an older dog, or if you currently have your own senior pup in your life, here’s a look at some tips for caring for them, and helping them to enjoy their Golden Years.

Don’t Skip the Exercise

An older dog will start to slow down, but this doesn’t mean that you should neglect his exercise. One of the best things that you can do for an older pup is to keep them moving. Exercise is good for pets; and for senior dogs, it keeps their joints moving. Exercise will also help to keep your pup young at heart. While your dog might not be able to go on all-day hikes through the mountains, he can still go with you on casual strolls and walks. If your dog isn’t used to exercise, start slow and gradually increase the distance. Take care on hot days, make sure your pet has enough to drink, don’t go too far, and be especially careful if you have a short-nosed dog.

Watch for Arthritis

If you notice that your dog is starting to limp or if she appears to be in distress, it could be a sign of arthritis. Many older dogs, especially larger dogs, develop arthritis in their older years, and if you suspect that your dog might have arthritis, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Your vet should be able to prescribe medication to help relieve the pain and swelling. Signs to watch for include: favoring a limb, difficulty sitting or standing, or seemingly stiff or sore joints.

Stay on Top of Parasite Prevention

Older dogs, like young dogs, are susceptible to parasites. But because an older dog’s immune system may be weaker, there are more potential health risks associated with fleas, ticks, worms, and other pests. Be sure to talk to your vet about worming and flea and tick treatments.

Feed Them High-Quality Food

If you aren’t already doing so, you should ensure that your pet has a nutritious diet. Try to feed him a high-quality, grain-free, balanced dog food –an important part of helping your pet to maintain a healthy weight. Keeping your dog at an ideal weight can help to reduce the risk of many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and even skin problems. Keep in mind, though, that while many older dogs are at a higher risk of obesity, some senior dogs may actually need more calories in their diet. They’ll also need high-quality protein, as well as foods that are easy to digest. Look for a senior dog food that has at least 25 percent protein and moderate fat. You may also want to consider fortifying your dog’s diet with DHA and EPA fatty acids; these could help a dog who has mobility issues caused by arthritis or a joint disease.

Check Their Teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth might sound silly, but keeping their teeth in good shape is an excellent preventative measure that will help to keep them healthy. Tarter build-up can lead to gingivitis, which can cause bacteria to get into the bloodstream –wreaking havoc on your dog’s organs. Consider having your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned; and be sure to stock up on teeth cleaning toys and treats!

Make Your Home Senior Friendly

Whether you own your home or are residing in rented accommodation; there’s a lot that you can do to make your place as comfortable as possible for your senior friend. Keep in mind that as your dog gets older, she might have a hard time making the trek up and down the stairs. You might consider giving her a comfortable bed –and placing food and water at ground level. If you have hard floors, you could also put some sturdy rugs down to help her keep her footing and to give her another comfortable place to rest, that’s not as hard on the joints.

Schedule Regular Checkups

It’s important to schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. Your senior pet should be examined once a year if there are no apparent health issues, and should be taken in sooner if you notice that something’s wrong. Ask your vet for a body condition evaluation every visit; this will inform you if your pet is overweight, underweight, or an ideal weight. Since overweight dogs have a higher incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer –helping your dog to maintain a healthy weight is important!

If you’d love to adopt a senior dog, but you’re currently residing in rented accommodation that has a no-pets policy, consider bringing up the issue with your landlord. Sometimes offering to pay a pet deposit or a higher security deposit could help to change their mind. Other times, volunteering to pay for carpet cleaning when you move out could help to increase their chances of saying yes. If your lease requires permission to have a pet, make sure you get your landlord’s express permission, in writing. Finally, if your landlord refuses to allow a dog, don’t feel discouraged. Many landlords today are beginning to recognize the benefits of allowing pets in their units. You may want to consider making the move to a pet-friendly rental, when one becomes available. At Renters Warehouse for instance (a fantastic supporter of Top Dog Foundation, a dedicated senior dog rescue), their mission is to become the nation’s #1 pet-friendly landlord, helping to educate landlords and property investors alike on the financial –and emotional rewards that come from allowing pets in their rentals.

The sole focus of Top Dog Foundation is to help aging dogs –allowing them to live out their Golden Years in comfort. Our mission is to build a state-of-the-art senior dog sanctuary; the first of its kind. This means that we’ll never have to turn down a senior pup in need. It would be amazing if those of us who love animals could all chip in, either by donating or by adopting a senior dog ourselves, helping to cut down on the scores of animals in shelters, and reducing the number of animals that are euthanized every year.

If you’re able to, why not adopt a senior today? These dogs may be getting on in years, but they still have a lot of love to give!

Are you thinking of adopting a senior dog? Do you currently have one?

~ Jean Stelten-Beuning

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