Many people do not believe it, but grooming is a crucial part of every dog’s care routine throughout its life, and for older dogs, it is important that you, the owner, become an active participant of this aspect of their health care routine.
Older dogs are not able to clean themselves as well as they used to when they were younger, it may be hard for them to clean hard-to-reach body areas, or may develop skin conditions that need special attention. In these cases, it becomes your responsibility, as the pet’s owner, to keep it well groomed and to watch out for any changes in the skin and coat that may point to an illness.
This is what you have to pay attention to:
The Skin and Coat
There are many changes that may occur in your dog’s skin as it gets older that may prevent it from grooming properly:
- Skin that used to be healthy may become dry and peeling.
- You may find dander on the coat’s surface, while on the opposite end, the skin may become very oily and feel slimy to the touch.
- Arthritis may not allow older dogs to reach some areas of the body.
Additionally, the mental changes that come with aging may cause your dog to lose interest in grooming itself. You will have to fit regular brushing, bathing, and medicine application, into your regular day-to-day schedule.
If older dogs have an illness related specifically to the endocrine system, it will show up first in their skin, which may become thinner and fragile due to hormonal imbalances. The skin may also tear more easily and take longer to heal. There could be color changes; light skin may turn dark and thick in appearance, and you may see small lumps that look like blackheads.
Be it a change in the look, color, or odor of the skin, a vet must check it to make sure a serious medical condition is not behind it.
Swelling and Bulges
Older dogs present swelling and bulges on and beneath the skin. The vet must examine any new skin growth that appears to make sure it does not pose a health risk. Some may just bother your old pal if they are located in sensitive areas or bleed when you groom it or due to other activities, but some may be life-threatening, like tumors.
Older dogs may also develop pressure sores. These appear in body areas that lack shielding between the bone and the surface where the dog lies, are very hard to treat, and are very common in large dog breeds that, as they age, lose muscle mass that used to protect the area when they were younger.
The hygroma, for example, appears at the point of the elbow due to the pressure exerted there. It may become very big; making it look as if your dog has a tennis ball on its elbow, and it may also become infected and painful due to ingrown hairs.
Pressure sores may also appear at the sides of the knees and hip joints. As soon as you identify them, give your old friend a soft padded surface to lie on.
Most dogs hate nail trimming, however, it is a crucial health care activity, especially for older dogs. It is not an easy task, and it will get worse as the dog gets older, because the nails get thicker and weak. Older dogs may feel pain when their paws are grabbed, making it harder to trim their nails.
The nails and nail beds may grow too long, getting into the pads and becoming very painful when the dog walks. You must get into the habit of trimming older dogs nails at least once every two weeks to avoid overgrowth and ease their walking.
There are many products now that can help you groom older dogs more easily and comfortably for them.
Prefer brushes and combs with plastic tipped teeth, which are softer on the skin.
If your older dog does not want to bathe but desperately needs to, look for waterless shampoos options that may get the job done without stressing your friend.
For older dogs with long hair, maintain the rear area trimmed short to prevent feces from tangling in the hair and prompting skin irritations and foul odors. It is difficult for older dogs to keep it clean back there, so, offer them all the help you can.