What should I pay attention to when caring for my old dog?
This article is about the care of our senior four-legged friends - not from a medical point of view - but about the fur, the ears, the eyes and the paws, etc.
The regular grooming of an ageing dog is very important. As you get very close to your dog during grooming, and inspecting almost every inch of it, you can keep a close eye on the health of your protégé. Therefore, you'll discover any health problems at an early stage. When combing, you can easily feel growing lipomas (see below). With the eye/ear care you can look closely, has your dog perhaps already cloudy eyes?
Take time for grooming
Usually, an older dog cannot stand for too long. Use the times in which your dog is well, and the joints do not hurt so much. If my dog has just taken a long nap, his joints are still aching, I then wait a bit until he is getting warm and is a bit more mobile again. But maybe he lies down and enjoys the care, then of course you can take advantage of this time.
Use combing aids such as coat sprays or conditioners to help. Prepared fur tugs less when combing/brushing and makes grooming easier and faster. Not every dog is used to clippers, but with a little patience, they can learn it. Medium and small clippers are quiet and have less vibration. Thinning scissors can be used to quickly and easily remove knots and trim or thin out individual areas.
Shorter grooming sessions
It's not necessary to care for the entire dog at once. It's easier for your dog if you split grooming in multiple sessions. You can trim the paws and claws on another day, shorten the tail tomorrow, or just cut individual parts.
It's not necessary to groom the whole dog at once. You can trim the paws and claws another day, trim the tail tomorrow, or just trim individual sections.
During care, pay attention to skin irritations, lipomas and other growths. When cutting or shearing, but also when combing, first run your fingers over and feel for places that you could injure. Sometimes it also helps to shorten the fur around such places a little bit, that you can see them earlier during the care. Making the areas more visible will also help you to detect problems such as enlargement, oozing etc. more quickly.
Older dogs often have poor vision, so keep the hair around the eyes short for their view to be clear. The eyes should be free of crusts, as it bothers your dog and can cause eye and skin inflammation. Keep the hair short and clean the eye area regularly with a damp cloth. Eye lotions or special wet wipes will help you to keep the eye area clean without much effort. If your dog is used to teeth cleaning, this is of course also part of it.
Does your senior already have some trouble eating, can he still clean his snout by himself? If not, it is very likely that food remains accumulate around the snout. If the fur around the snout is sticky, it is not only annoying for your pet, it can also cause inflammation. Help him a little, keep the fur around the muzzle short, especially the fold near the corner of the mouth. After eating, briefly run a damp wash cloth over the snout, this helps a lot to prevent food remains from accumulating.
The ears should be clean, the smell from the ear rather neutral. Ear infections can be noticed early by looking regularly in your dog's ears. If they are clean and odorless, everything is fine. Biting, rather sour smell, can indicate an ear infection. Especially, if your dog shakes its head often or scratches its ears, you should visit the vet.
Particularly, lop-ears should be well controlled because a warm and humid climate is created in these ears, which supports bacterial infestation. Here again, shortening the fur helps. Shorten the fur around the outer ear (auricle) and on the ears, so the air can circulate better and the ears are not too heavy.
Parts of the neck, typically below the ears, tend to mat quickly because of the collar. If possible, take off your dog's collar or harness after walking, keep the fur thin (thinning scissors help) or shorten it to a practical length with clippers.
Matting on the chest is rather rare, it is more likely to occur under the front and hind legs. So, especially there, check for knots that form. Keeping the hair under the legs short always helps.
Since you can always check on your dog's health when combing, do not neglect the chest.
The coat on the back is usually a rather problem-free zone but of course, regular combing and brushing also applies here, a coat spray helps and gives the coat moisture.
Let your dog calmly lie down, as it's easier for an old dog's legs and joints. The flanks tend to mat because dogs often like to lie on their sides, so look carefully here when combing.
If your dog is already a bit incontinent, you should clean the genitals regularly. A simple wash cloth with warm water is usually enough. Keep the fur short, so the area is easier to clean.
If your pet frequently suffers from diarrhea or thin feces, you can simply keep the fur around the anus short with small clippers or scissors, so fewer feces remains in the fur and the area is easy to clean.
Many dogs don't like combing the tail at all, nevertheless, it should not be neglected. Be as gentle and careful as possible when brushing. Often I see that the hair on the tail is too long and the dog stands accidentally on it. Keep the hair on the tail short, so your dog can't stand on it.
Paws and claws
Because older dogs do not move as much, you should pay attention to the claws and keep them short. If you want to make it as easy as possible for you and your four-legged friend, I recommend, you briefly sand the claws every week with a claw grinder.
Since it is usually the joints that hurt, your senior is more likely to slip and fall on slippery floors, especially if he is still standing or walking on long hair in the paw pads. Keep the hair in the paw pads short with scissors or a small paw machine.
Diseases you should watch out for
I'm not writing from the point of view of a veterinary. I describe from a groomer's perspective what to look out for when grooming a senior dog.
Joint problems / hip problems
Older dog's joints often ache. Therefore, be careful when you bend or move joints, it could cause pain to your dog. Additionally, make sure to make only natural movements with the joints, which the dog can do by himself when walking or peeing. When walking your dog, pay attention to how high your male dog can still lift his leg or if he always limps on one leg, etc.
Lipomas / Tumors
A lipoma is a benign tumor of the fatty tissue which usually occurs in older dogs. Lipomas are one of the most common benign tumors of the subcutaneous tissue of dogs. Malignant fat tumors in dogs, called liposarcomas, on the other hand, are very rare. See a veterinarian if you are uncertain.
Observe such changes: Tumors that grow larger can burst or be injured, and they can interfere with walking. To keep a close eye on the growth, simply place a finger next to the lump and take a picture, this way you can check for changes every now and then.
Of course there are many other health factors you should pay attention to, ask professionals such as dog groomers or veterinarians for the appropriate way to make the care of your dog as painless as possible.
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