Through Your Dog’s Golden Years: How to Properly Care for a Senior Dog

If you have been together with your dog for a long time, then your canine companion has probably been one of the most important parts of your life for most of this period. You might have noticed that your dog has been acting differently lately. They might be tiring out more quickly or they are not eating as much.

Don’t panic! Your dog is most likely still healthy and happy. All of these signs are just a natural part of their aging process, and it’s most likely that they are starting to enter their senior years.

How do I Know if my Dog is a Senior Dog?

Unlike in humans, there is no single standard age where a dog can be considered a senior. For dogs, the general age to be considered a “senior” is around seven to ten years. However, the size of the dog does matter: large breeds tend to age more rapidly compared to small breeds. A Great Dane, for example, would be considered a senior dog at around seven years old, but a Pomeranian will only be considered a senior once they reach around ten or eleven years old.

Signs that a Dog is a Senior

As with their age in years, the signs that signify aging in dogs can vary from one breed to another, and indeed, one dog to another. However, there are general signs that you might want to look out for, such as:

  • Eating Pattern and Weight Gain: Senior dogs tend to eat a lot less and a lot more slowly compared to younger dogs since they are not as active. You might also notice that they are gaining weight more quickly compared to when they were younger.
  • Drinking and Peeing: Many senior dogs tend to drink a lot less as well, however, they start to have trouble with their bladder control. You might notice that your dog, who hasn’t peed in the house since they were housetrained, has recently started to have accidents even while they are sleeping.
  • Sleeping Frequency: As with humans, senior dogs tend to sleep a lot more compared to when they were younger. They also tend to look for cool, dark, and quiet places, even if they didn’t mind sleeping in the middle of a noisy and crowded living room when they were younger.
  • Cognitive Health: Senior dogs are prone to canine dementia. You might notice that they’re not responding as quickly to an external stimulus, or they start to bump into things more often, or they might even look like they’re getting lost inside their own home.

How can I Take Care of my Senior Dog Properly?

Given that your dog is now approaching their twilight years, it is important that you give them the right level of care and attention to make their remaining years as safe and comfortable as possible. Luckily for you, an online dog care guide for senior dogs isn’t hard to find.

If your dog isn’t sick, the best way to care for them during their senior years is simply to increase the level of your care and attention a little bit! Where you once scheduled vet checkups once a year, maybe make it twice or even thrice a year now. Where you were not as discerning with their dog food (most store-bought brands are fine for middle-aged dogs), you might want to consider investing in senior-care dog food that’s high in good fatty acids.

There are generally three areas of your senior dog’s life that you want to focus on: their health, their nutritional intake, and their level of exercise. Aside from more frequent and regular vet checkups, you should also inspect your dog now and again. Look for any symptoms that are common in older dogs, such as cataracts (cloudy eyes), arthritis (joint pain), or even bumps in the skin that can signify more serious diseases such as cancer.

When it comes to your dog’s food intake, make sure that you are feeding them the right kind of dog food and in the right amount. Senior dogs generally don’t need dog food in the same amount as their younger counterparts, but they do need dogfood that’s fortified with vitamins and fatty acids.

Finally, when it comes to exercise, when senior dogs love to exercise. Just keep a closer eye on them during walks to see if they are getting tired and need a break. They might also be feeling pain in their joints or paws, so you might need to slow down or shorten your walks.

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How to Safely Remove a Tick in a Pet

Ticks are both a daily nuisance and an extreme danger for all pets who spend time outside. Whether you’re going for a walk near your home or traveling out of state for some outdoor adventure, these little bugs are hazardous. If you do find a tick on your pet, it is essential to remove it correctly. Any contact with a tick’s blood can potentially transmit infection to your animal or, in some cases, to you. Plus, improperly removing one of these pests can result in breaking the insect apart, leaving the head inside your animal’s skin. You’ll want to remove the insect as quickly as possible, but you’ll need to carefully follow instructions to reduce possible harm. We’ve included a step-by-step guide to safely removing a tick.

Step 1: Put on latex or rubber gloves to you do not have contact with the tick or the bite area. Keep a screw-top jar full of rubbing alcohol nearby, and if possible, enlist a partner to help distract and soothe the animal during the removal process.

Step 2: Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible. Pull straight upwards with even, steady pressure. When the tick comes loose, place it in the jar. This will allow you to bring it to the veterinarian for testing in case the insect transmitted any disease to your pet. During the removal process, be sure to not twist or jerk the tick; this could leave parts of the insect inside the pet, and the tick could regurgitate infecting fluids.

Step 3: Use rubbing alcohol to disinfect the bite area, then wash your hands with soap and water. Remember to sterilize your tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running them over a flame. Remember to never squeeze or crush the tick, as the insect’s fluids may contain infective organisms.

Step 4: Monitor the bite area over the next few weeks for any signs of infection, such as redness or inflammation. If you suspect an infection, bring your pet – and the jarred tick – to the veterinarian for evaluation.

The best way to protect your dog from tick bites is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Many products on the market for flea treatment can also kill ticks. If you’re interested, speak to your veterinarian about the best product for your pet. Dog owners can also ensure a tick-free lawn by mowing regularly and removing weeds.

Even with the bet preparation, accidents are sometimes inevitable. If you find a tick bite on your dog, a steady removal is the best, safest thing you can do for him.

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Hot Weather Safety Tips and Recognizing Overheating in Pets

Summertime is perfect for connecting with your pets. The long, sunny days are a great opportunity for long walks, mountain adventures, and strolls along the beach, all with Fido in toe.

Unfortunately, being overeager in hot temperatures can be hazardous for our furry friends because dogs are not well-suited to extreme heat. Overheating is very dangerous for pets, and in some cases, that long, mid-day walk can mean the difference between life and death. Because of this, it is crucial that all pet owners know how to recognize signs of heatstroke, how to treat overheating in pets, and what immediate actions can save a dog’s life.

Heatstroke normally happens when animals lose their ability to regulate body temperatures. As you may know, dogs do not sweat as humans do; rather, body temperatures I regulated by respiration, such as panting. If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot clear heat quickly enough, heatstroke becomes a very real threat. Common signs of heatstroke include hyperventilation, dry gums that become pale, excessive panting, increased salivation, a rapid pulse, confusion, diarrhea, weakness, vomiting, and possible rectal bleeding. Left untreated, these symptoms will grow worse and, eventually, lead to seizure or coma.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, bring them inside immediately. Use a rectal thermometer to take the animal’s temperature. A normal body temperature is at or around 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and moderate heating usually clocks in at between 103 to 104 degrees. Severe heating is anything beyond 104 degrees. If your dog’s temperature is in this danger zone, bring them to the veterinarian or the nearest emergency center immediately.

In the meantime, you can reduce your dog’s temperature by putting cool, wet towels on his neck, under his armpits, and between his hind legs. If you can, you should also wet his ear flaps and paw pads with cool water. Give your dog fresh, cool drinking water, and ensure he is comfortable for the ride to the doctor.

So, how do you prevent heatstroke in animals? As it turns out, it’s a fairly simple task.

  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool water. Pets can get dehydrated quickly, and this is exacerbated when temperatures rise.
  • Never leave your pet in a parked vehicle. Temperatures in an unairconditioned car can rise rapidly.
  • Never shave your dog. The layers of a dog’s coat can protect them from overheating and sunburn and removing the coat will decrease the ability to regulate their body temperature.
  • Don’t let your pet linger on hot asphalt. Keeps walks on grass or gravel whenever possible and limit all time on pavement. Hot sidewalks and roads can burn sensitive paw pads.

Additionally, animals with flat faces, like pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. Similarly, older, overweight, and pets with heat and lung diseases should be kept in cool, air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

If you’re traveling to a warmer part of the world, keep in mind that some airlines and airports put restrictions on pet travel when temperatures rise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This will usually apply to animals traveling as cargo. If you’re concerned about your upcoming trip, check our airlines guides for company-specific restrictions.

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The Most Common Summer Dangers for Pets

For most, summer is the best time of the year. Rainy spring gives way to sparkling, sunny summer, bringing cook-outs, vacations, pool parties, and more. That said, when temperatures spike, new, seasonal dangers arrive for pets. Whether you’re staying at home or taking a week-long trip to the mountains, keep these common summer dangers for pets in mind whenever your beloved animal is by your side.

Ticks– Ticks are some of the worst dangers for pets who spend a lot of time outside. Ticks can carry a number of diseases, including Lyme disease, but the symptoms are often very hard to spot. Talk to your veterinarian to get an effective tick medication. We recommend that you or your dog walker check your pet for ticks at least once every day and look thoroughly after walks or trips through wooded areas. Ticks are a threat around the country, even in cities. If you have an extra few minutes after work or before going to sleep, spend them searching for these pesky insects.

Water – Remember: not all dogs have mastered the doggy paddle. Some like water, while others don’t. Some dogs are great swimmers, while others struggle to stay afloat. Before you bring Fido to the beach or pool, buy a flotation device to keep them safe. If your pup loves the water, be sure to always rinse off after a swim. Chlorine, salt and bacteria in pools and lakes can be harmful.

Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion– These threats are very dangerous during the summer. Animals should always have fresh, clean water, but summertime necessitates portable water bowls on walks, vacations, and long car rides. Watch out for common symptoms, including lethargy, decreased urination, dry gums, and a refusal to eat, and read our hot weather safety tips post for tips on reducing this threat.

Sidewalks We’ve all heard the phrase: If you’re cold, they’re cold. The truth is, the same applies to hot temperatures. Surfaces like black pavement can get very hot in the summer sun, resulting in burnt or damaged paw pads. Whenever possible, stay away from asphalt or rough pavement, and try to schedule your walks for cooler times of day. Common sense tricks, like walking in the shade or on the grass, will also help.

Bee StingsDogs and cats love to play with other wild things, especially if they buzz. Some of those buzzing insects, though, can have a painful effect. There’s not much you can do if your pet is stung, but severe swelling merits a trip to the vet. They may prescribe an over-the-counter medication. The best solution? Keep Fido and Fluffy as far away from these stingers as possible.

CookoutsSummer is measured in the time between barbeques and cookouts. For many of us, it’s the best part of warm weather – sitting outside with friends with a few hamburgers on the grill. Unfortunately, those grilled hamburgers may be dangerous for your dog. Some surprising foods, like grapes, onions, garlic, and raisins, can be toxic to dogs when consumed in large quantities. Furthermore, meat with bones should be avoided at all costs, as overexcited dogs tend to swallow morsels whole. In general, table scraps and treats should not exceed more than 10 percent of your dog’s total diet, and you should communicate these dangers to hosts ahead of time.

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WalletHub’s Pet-Friendly Airline Rankings

Earlier this month, WalletHub published their annual airline rankings across several categories including pet-friendly airlines. We were reviewing these rankings as well as the methodology used, and several things jumped out to us. We wanted to discuss these results and process with our audience in case you come across these rankings and statistics online, or if you’re just generally interested in which airlines are most pet-friendly as part of making plans for your next trip.

Notes about Pet-Friendly Airline Rankings

  • Based on the number of animal fatalities, injuries, and lost animals (prorated for the total number of animals transported by the airline), the rankings are volatile from one year to the next. It’s hard to tell whether there’s any discernible pattern at all. Many airlines bounce around in their pet safety performance, but Delta has seemed uncannily consistent from one year to the next.
  • Speaking of Delta’s consistency, it will be interested to see if its long-term partnership with Carepod to monitor and make real-time reports of a pet’s travel status. Another major airline, United Airlines has no ranking at all from 2018, presumably from the period when it suspended its pet travel program to audit and overhaul their safety policies.
  • Envoy Air shows that airlines don’t necessarily need a lot of experience or a long track record to get things right. New this year, the airline ranks second. In fact, the top scorers from this year are all regional airlines. It’s also interesting to us that Alaska Airlines ranks third. While this airline serves plenty of other places than Alaska, it’s concentration of more northernly locations would seem to present clear pet travel dangers. But, apparently, this isn’t the case.
  • The rankings also indicate that four major airlines (Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit) do not transport animals at all. This, however, is not entirely true. These airlines do not allow for pet travel with cats and small dogs that can fit under the seat in front of you in the cabin of the plane. Thus, these rankings would seem to only apply to larger animals traveling as cargo or as checked baggage.

Big-picture, these types of airline rankings can be interesting to cite and mildly useful, but they’re based on limited information and specific applications. Depending on your situation and particular pet travel plans, these rankings and information may not be relevant. And certainly, you shouldn’t base your travel plans solely on these rankings. Moreover, choosing a pet-friendly airline known for safety doesn’t relieve pet owners of their responsibility to know and follow all the applicable pet travel rules.

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What’s Weekend Warrior Syndrome?

We’ve all experienced it: You spend your winter inside, curled up on the couch, but when the sun comes out, you have the urge to go for a run. You were in pretty good shape last fall, so you head out for a few miles when the temperature rises above 45 degrees. As it turns out, you are decidedly not in shape. This is called Weekend Warrior Syndrome, and it can impact both you and Fido.

Weekend Warrior Syndrome is what happens when you don’t exercise at all during the week, then overdo your exercise on the weekend. This is exacerbated in the spring, when you may not have exercised intensely for several months. Weekend warriors may exercise for several hours without properly stretching, and over-exercising can often lead to injury, dehydration, and other ailments.

While you should be aware of your own propensity for Weekend Warrior Syndrome, be sure to keep a close eye on your pet as the temperatures get warmer. After several months of inactivity, your dog may have gained weight and lost muscle tone, and he could be a little stiff in the joints. On hot pavement or rough hiking terrain, cuts and sores on paw pads are a common danger. If you want to bring him on runs and long walks as soon as the weather gets nicer, be sure to do it in environments that are friendly to your dog. Even then, be sure to be on the lookout for signs of over-exercising in your pet.

It’s important to start reintroducing your outdoor pets to favorite activities slowly. This prevents exhaustion and injury. Start with shorter runs, walks, and hikes, the increase to longer stretches or games of fetch and Frisbee. Remember that dogs aren’t always in shape, and they’re not always ready to run. Like us, they need gradual conditioning through incremental increases in exercise frequency, intensity, and duration.

If you’re ready to bring Fido outside, you should also know about breed-specific risks. Labrador Retrievers, for example, can suffer from cranial cruciate ligament ruptures if they aren’t conditioned slowly. Herding and agility dogs can suffer ligament damage from frequent direction changes, and certain types of Retriever can experience patellar luxation. Before embarking on a high-energy activity, see what your pet might be genetically predisposed to and be sure to keep a close eye on discomfort.

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