November 5, 2021
Golden Years: How To Help A Senior Dog Age Gracefully
It happens quicker than you think. One day you reach down to pet your pup, and you realize that they’re greying. One day you throw their favorite toy across the yard, and they don’t run after it as quickly as they used to. One day you notice they are having a little trouble getting up from their bed. Just like us, our four-legged family members slow down when they get older.
Dogs are considered seniors when they reach the last 25% of their life expectancy. This of course depends directly on their breed and size. As their body goes through changes as they age, your dog relies on you to change the way you care for them. That could mean new strategies to keep them active, a new diet, introducing new supplements, a new grooming schedule, and general changes to your behavior around them.
Getting old doesn’t mean your pup can’t enjoy many of the same things they used to, it might just take a little adjusting. Here’s how you can help your four-legged family member age gracefully!
Keep It Moving!
Just because your pup is slowing down, it doesn’t mean they don’t need exercise anymore. It’s been proven that keeping your senior dog active may help reduce the risk of medical complications and help them live longer!
There’s no shortage of toy options for older dogs! If you don’t have a super chewer, softer plush toys designed with a higher frequency for hard-of-hearing dogs are a great option. If your pup still loves to play fetch, specifically designed soft rubber balls for dogs with dental issues or weakened jaw muscles are a great choice. Interactive puzzle toys and toys that allow for treat-stuffing are a great way to keep your pup physically and mentally active. Here’s a great guide to toys for senior dogs!
Let’s Go Exploring
Changing up your walking routine, driving to a new park, or taking your senior pup to the beach are great ways for them to experience a new setting. New sights, smells, and any new friends they meet along the way can help them feel invigorated, mentally stimulated, and provide a nice break from the same old routine!
Another great way to keep your senior dog active is to introduce them to new four-legged friends. If your pup isn’t aggressive around other dogs, and it can be done safely, allowing them to be social at the park or dog park is a fantastic way to keep things new and exciting. Bringing your dog to your friend’s homes is also a great way for them to stay social with two-legged friends and experience new surroundings.
What’s For Dinner?
As your dog gets older, what and how they eat will change. Older dogs are more susceptible to disease and illness, require more physical maintenance, and don’t burn as many calories as they used to. Their diet should directly reflect their unique situation!
Switch It Up
Many major brands of dog food produce special senior diet formulas. These formulas are created with a senior dog’s nutrient and caloric needs in mind and are often help prevent or manage conditions. Consider switching up your senior dog’s diet if they suffer from skin diseases, dental diseases, kidney diseases, or obesity. There are even some foods designed to assist in the treatment of various forms of canine cancer.
Just like we take vitamins and supplements, your senior dog may need a little extra nourishment apart from their regular diet. Many senior dogs receive daily hip and joint supplements for joint pain and fatty acid supplements for skin and coat health. If your senior pup has trouble with digestion, there are plenty of prebiotic supplements for that as well! Check out this article to for more information about senior dog supplements, and ask your veterinary provider about which supplements could benefit your four-legged family member!
How Much Is Too Much?
As your dog ages, they are likely not as active as they used to be. Many veterinary providers will recommend reducing your senior dog’s total caloric intake up to 30%. You may also need to adjust your pet’s feeding routine and divide their daily meals into smaller portions for consumption throughout the day. Portion control can promote a healthy appetite and also helps avoid overfeeding and providing your pup with any excess nutrients that could have an adverse effect on their health. Here’s a calculator to get a general idea of how much your elder should be eating!
Keep It Clean
Grooming is still a vital part of your dog’s health and well-being as they enter their golden years. Although, as with everything else regarding an aging pet, their grooming routine may be slightly different!
Older dogs have more sensitive skin and may have pre-existing injuries or muscle weakness, requiring softer, gentler brushes. Before you groom, make sure your brushes are in proper working order. A bent or broken tooth can easily snag on any tender bumps your senior pup may have, potentially causing injury or pain. Additionally, if you are bathing your dog at home, make sure to have a non-slip mat in your tub to reduce the risk of a fall.
Time For A Pedicure
Typically, a healthy adult dog will need their nails trimmed once or twice a month. However, depending on activity level and environment, most senior dogs need their nails trimmed at least twice a month and, in some cases, every week! Senior dogs require extra maintenance on their nails due to aging bones and muscles. When a dog’s nails grow too long extra pressure is applied to their ligaments, which can stress their muscles and cause pain. Keeping your senior dog’s nails trimmed also reduces the chances of breaking a nail, which could lead to potential infection.
Skin infection and dental disease are more common in older dogs, that means they require more routine checks and cleanings. Each time you groom your senior pup, and in between grooming, make sure that you are paying extra attention to their ears, eyes, and mouth. Make a habit of brushing their teeth, removing any build-up that may be accumulating in the corners of their eyes, and checking their ears for signs of infection.
As your dog gets older and slows down, some of their cognitive abilities will inevitably begin to diminish. Vision loss, hearing loss, and lack of mobility can result in higher levels of stress and anxiety for your pup, so remember to always approach them slowly. They may also get nervous around guests entering the home, even if it’s people they are familiar with. So asks guests to take it slow as well. If your senior pup exhibits behavioral changes such as destructive habits, going to the bathroom in the home, or suddenly being more vocal, there may be something bothering them. Get them to your veterinary provider for a routine check-up.
Keep an eye out for physical or behavioral changes and remember to be patient and understanding. Your senior pup is relying on you to help them with any changes they may experience. And remember, your dog is getting older, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy new adventures and activities, it just takes a little more planning.