When we welcome a Great Dane puppy into our lives there is little thought about how we will care for them as they age. As puppies they are so full of life and there are so many other things that require our attention. After all, puppy rearing requires time and attention and we are focused on housebreaking, vet visits, and obedience training.
Still, the fact remains that the average lifespan of these gentle giants is a mere seven to ten years and your lively puppy will soon become a rambunctious adolescent, and then a loyal and loving adult. During this time your Great Dane will win your heart and become a vital and integral part of the family.
Then, seemingly overnight your beloved Dane begins to show signs of aging. They seem a little slower, a little stiffer, and a little more grey. You knew this day would come, but it all seems so sudden now. It seems only yesterday your Dane was a vibrant and active canine.
While the realization that your Great Dane has reached the senior years may be concerning, there are things that you can do to help ensure quality of life throughout their golden years.
Diet And Exercise
We all know that diet and exercise are important throughout your Great Dane’s life. As a senior, your Dane may require some adjustments in both diet and exercise routines. If your senior Dane is overweight, you should make efforts to reduce their weight. Talk to your veterinarian to develop a weight loss program that is specific to your Dane’s particular needs and circumstances. An overweight Dane is far more susceptible to joint problems and arthritis.
As your Great Dane gets older it can become more difficult for them to get around, but that does not mean that they should forego daily exercise. Short walks or a swim in the lake can go a long way toward reducing stiffness and muscle aches, while promoting heart and respiratory health. Again, talk to your veterinarian to develop a reasonable exercise routine for your senior Dane.
Like diet and exercise, dental hygiene is important to your Dane’s health throughout life. As they get older, providing proper dental hygiene may be more difficult. Dental cleanings at the vet will typically involve anesthesia which is often ill advised in older dogs. Brush your Dane’s teeth on a regular basis and talk to your vet about other ways to promote dental health for your Dane.
Like people, sometimes older Danes will suffer from poor vision, instability, or a lack of balance. Things that used to come so easily, like leaping onto the bed, can become much more difficult, and even dangerous for the older Dane. Even negotiating slick floors can be difficult for a Dane with instability or balance issues, and even day to day objects can represent new obstacles for an animal with failing eyesight.
Consider making beds and favorite furniture more accessible with ramps and adding friction to slick floors with carpet runners. If your elderly Dane has failing eyesight, don’t rearrange furniture and avoid adding new obstacles to their environment. A well-fitted harness can help stabilize animals with balance issues.
Like aging humans, aging Danes often suffer from aches and pains. Your Dane likely has a higher tolerance for pain than the average human, so it is important to note any signs of stiffness or discomfort.
Some signs (i.e. limping) are obvious and warrant a visit to the vet, other signs are more subtle. Unwillingness to play, load up in the car, or interact with other dogs are all potential signs that your Great Dane is in pain.
If you suspect that your Dane is in pain, you should visit your veterinarian and discuss available options for pain management. Every situation is different and you and your vet are in the best position to properly diagnose and treat their symptoms.
Imagine this scenario: Your aging, 190 pound Great Dane is struggling to get up. What will you do? A one hundred and ninety pound dog is a whole lot of dog to try to lift, and not knowing exactly what the problem is, trying to lift your Dane ma y do more harm than good. Consider keeping a belly sling at your home which will help to safely lift your Dane, and be aware of any mobile veterinarian services provided in your area. These precautions could make a huge difference for both you and your beloved Dane.
We all love our four-legged family members and in a perfect world they would always outlive us. The unfortunate reality is that our furry friends typically have much shorter lifespans. We all have to prepare ourselves for the inevitable end of life decisions that we must make for our canine companions. In many cases the very best we can do is make them comfortable, love them unconditionally, and do our level best to bring as much joy to their lives as they have to ours.