As dog parents, we all face the reality that our little babies will eventually become senior dogs.
It's hard not feel sadness for the fact that you might not have as much time left with your "child".
Overcome this sadness by showering your senior Shiba with love and the best care possible now.
What Happens As Dogs Age?
The side effects of aging is more or less the same for every creature on this planet.
For dogs, that means getting slower, sleeping more often, and developing hearing issues.
Some dogs get cataracts while others may develop chronic diseases like kidney disease, heart disease, dementia or diabetes.
Depending on the breed, some dogs become “seniors” later than others. Smaller breeds are considered seniors when they reach 10 or 11 years old.
Medium sized breeds like Shiba inu or Golden Retrievers become seniors around 8 through 10. Large or giant breeds are considered seniors at age 5 or 6, since they have the shortest lifespans.
What is actually more important than these age ranges is the QUALITY of life your Shiba Inu enjoys.
Learn how to provide the best care for your golden-aged Shiba by reading the following tips.
Caring For Your Senior Shiba Inu - Our 7 Top Tips
Provide an Age Appropriate Diet -
Just like humans, your senior dog is not going to eat the same as they did when they were a puppy.
Older dogs need a specially balanced diet that takes into consideration their health, medical conditions, and activity level.
Chances are high that you've already found some food intolerances / food allergies that affect your Shiba. Be sure to be diligent in ensuring that you avoid any types of food that negatively affect your senior Shiba.
Take into consideration any health issues that your Shiba has been diagnosed with in the past when planning your dog's diet.
For example, Shibas that are prone to pancreatitis should avoid fatty foods to prevent a recurrence of the disease.
Obesity in geriatric Shibas is especially concerning. Obese dogs are at risk for a multitude of health problems.
Many owners fail to adjust portion size and continue to feed elder Shibas the same amount as they've always been feeding contributing to weight gain.
The trickle down effect of obesity includes risk of arthritis, pain, and mobility issues.
Some other feeding tips for older dogs include:
- Say no to unhealthy table scraps (french fries, high carbs, high fat food) but still offer your dog healthy human grade foods such as lean fresh meats, steamed vegetables and fresh fruit.
- Do not free feed - Aim for two smaller meals a day for best digestion and satisfaction
- Provide a human grade diet that is balanced for dogs if possible
- If feeding kibble, be sure to do your research to find quality kibble that is safe and nutritious.
- Supplement dog kibble with healthy fresh foods such as vegetables, lean meats, and organs
- Pay attention to the consistency of your Shibas meals - make sure the softness and moisture level is appropriate for your Shiba's needs
- Include nutrient heavy superfoods like dark greens, fermented foods like natto beans,
Schedule Regular Vet Visits
As our Shibas age, it's important to keep on top of any issues BEFORE these issues progress and get's worse.
That's why having a good relationship with your veterinarian is invaluable.
Depending on your Shiba Inu's health and current issues, geriatric Shiba Inus should visit their vets twice a year if possible - especially if you suspect any health concerns.
Paying for regular vet visits will likely end up less costly than paying for a major health issue that wasn't detected early enough.
Monitor your Shiba for the following:
- Discharge of the eyes and nose
- Unusual lumps or growths
- Labored breathing, coughing, or wheezing
- Excessive thirst
- Uncharacteristic confusion or aggression
- Unresponsive to your voice
If you notice any sudden changes in your dog, do not hesitate to call the veterinarian immediately.
Provide Regular Exercise (IMPORTANT) -
Regular exercise is hands down the best preventative medicine you can and MUST provide your Shiba Inu.
Just be sure to not overdo it.
Senior Shibas have less stamina and strength so keep that in mind when planning your daily or impromptu exercise sessions.
Try to incorporate exercise in things that your Shiba Inu already enjoys doing, whether that be walkig in certain areas, light hiking, playing games - even swimming if your Shiba is inclined to enjoy!
It's understandable that not everyone can commit to stringent schedules - just aim to do the best you can each week.
Groom Regularly -
Your coat of your Shiba Inu may not be as vibrant and colorful as it once was - but should still be healthy, full, and have a healthy oil balance.
A dog's coat is a good indicator of overall health.
If you notice dry, brittle coat conditions then you should look into improving your Shiba diet as well as supplement regimen.
Brush your Shibas coat regularly - at least once every two weeks.
While brushing, examine for any lumps, rashes, or anything out of the ordinary.
Keep your Shiba nails trimmed and short!
Many Shiba owners struggle with Shibas that don't appreciate their nails getting clipped - but neglecting to do can lead to serious health issues down the road.
Brush Teeth DAILY -
Just like humans, aging comes with tooth loss, decay, and disease.
In fact periodontal disease is so prevalent in dogs that up to 80% of dogs already have the disease by age 3.
If you are already brushing your Shiba inu’s teeth daily, awesome! Being proactive in keeping your senior dog as healthy as possible is the best gift you can offer your Shiba.
Many senior dogs need to go under anesthesia for teeth cleaning which carries an additional medical risk.
By keeping on top of your Shibas teeth and gum health you can avoid unnecessary procedures.
Enjoy The Simple Things - Together -
This may seem obvious, but you should cherish every single moment you have with your aging companion.
A lot of us can get caught up with never-ending cycles of daily "to-do's".
With work, children, obligations - life sometimes becomes more hectic that we'd like.
It's important to step back once in a while and put your focus on what you still have.
Your Shiba may have less time left than you'd like but at least you know you have the ability to make their time left full of love, fun, and comfort.
Try to plan regular activities that your Shiba loves partaking in. This can be as simple as walks or trips to the park, etc.
Encourage your Shiba to remain active and social with other dogs and people as well.
If your Shiba loves hiking, be sure to plan a hike every now and then.
Even if your Shiba can't complete the entire hike, there are ways to modify the hike (shorter) or use a carrying bag to carry your Shiba at certain times (if you're physically able to).
Many senior dogs are prone to anxiety issues as they age.
Do what you can to comfort them and put them at ease. Consult with your veterinarian if medications are necessary.
Products To Improve Your Shibas Comfort and Safety -
With so many amazing products available these days - it's never been a better time to be a dog.
From doggy ramps, to doggy carriers, to sound proof doggy "thunder" houses - technology has literally gone to the dogs!
And we as loving dog owners, love it.
For now, we'll just focus on the most important things to consider getting for our elderly Shibes.
Products For The Home:
As Shibas age, their footing gets less steady. If you have hard floors, many elder dogs have issues with slipping and sliding.
Consider getting carpet runners for the most heavily trafficked areas to help your Shiba navigate her home with ease.
Jumping / landing with aging bones usually don't make a good match.
If your Shiba loves your furniture and bed, which is probably the case, it's important to get a doggy ramp to reduce injury from jumping and landing.
For feeding time, look into getting raised bowls so your Shiba doesn't have to bend their head as much.
If your elder Shiba has incontinence issues there are many products to help keep things neat and sanitary such as waterproof beds, puppy pads, doggy diapers, and more.
X-pens are great to contain your Shiba to a certain area when they can't be supervised. This will prevent your Shiba from getting hurt and / or soiling an area that is not protected.
Also don't forget the little details that can go a long way in providing safety and comfort for your senior Shibe.
- Comfortable calming bed
- Night light
- Favorite stuffed toy or "comfort" object
- Music or video to calm / entertain (Yes some dogs do enjoy television)
- For those with pools - be sure it's properly gated
- Second story steps and other trip hazards should also be assessed.
Products For The Go:
Just because your Shiba has slowed down, that shouldn't prevent you and your Shiba from doing the things your Shiba loved to do in the past.
There's a bunch of options that'll help you take your Shiba wherever you go.
Doggie strollers will help you take longer walks with your Shiba, while doggy backpacks can allow your Shiba to enjoy hikes out in nature.
Or if you happen to have an unused baby stroller, that might work as well depending on size.
Shopping wagons can be used as well depending on size - just make sure that it's safe and comfortable for your Shiba.
Aging and evolving will always be a part of our time here on earth.
While the unforeseen future can be scary and daunting - take comfort in knowing that you and your dog have shared some of each other's best life moments - together.
And although your beautiful Shiba has entered her golden years - there's still so much love, fun, and experience to share with her - just be a little cautious with those joints!
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