As our dogs age, we begin noticing slight changes in their weight, energy, senses, and more. Every dog breed might age a bit differently, and small dogs age slower than large dogs, usually. Typically dogs become senior between the ages of 7-12 and should consider slight adjustments for keeping them vibrant for longer.
Keeping your senior dog happy as they age is possible! Here are some top tips for the aging dog and keeping them happy and healthy:
Watch Their Weight
The older our dogs get, the older their bones are. They are not as strong as they used to be. So aging bones in combination with gaining weight can be a risky game. Keeping our older dogs' weight in check can help them to enjoy walking and running longer, avoiding heart disease and other obesity-related illnesses. A healthy weight also reduces the dog’s chances of developing arthritis. You should be able to feel their ribs with your fingertips, but not be able to see them.
There are joint support supplements or fish oils you might consider adding to your dog's diet, if your furry friend seems stiff, walking slower, or no longer wants to climb the steps. The right amount of exercise is still important, but adding a supplement could reduce pain. Talk to your veterinarian about what supplement could be right for your aging dog, as there are lots of options available.
Eating The Right Food
This goes hand-in-hand with ensuring your dog doesn’t become overweight as they age. There are dog food formulas made specifically for our aging pets. The older they get, the fewer calories they need compared to puppies and younger dogs.
Ensure their diet is well balanced with lots of meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Try to eliminate any chemical preservatives, artificial colors, and reduce carbohydrates. If you begin to notice weight gain in your dog due to them being less active, try feeding a little less, or switching to a seniors formula. You can also begin adding fiber in the way of fresh vegetables or a tablespoon or two of fresh or canned pumpkin.
Probiotics are also awesome for dogs as most of their immunity comes from their gut. There are lots of doggy probiotics your veterinarian can recommend. Some come in treat form, others you can hide in a spoonful of peanut butter, or you can add some fermented goat’s milk as a delicious topper!
Range Of Motion Exercises & Massage
Giving your dog a massage and moving their arms and legs can keep their joints from getting sticky. Gently pull and extend, and move in natural circles. Make sure to get both sides. Many dogs love this and it can become a part of your daily routine with your dog.
It is always a good idea to talk to your vet before starting these exercises. Dog acupuncture and chiropractor appointments can also do your dog a world of good. They alleviate pain and stiffness, often caused by arthritis. Pet wellness plans for dogs almost always cover these appointments so you’re not paying out of pocket.
Keep Them Active
Muscle exercises with your aging dog can help keep their mobility and strength up. Practice ‘sit’ and ‘come’ exercises with them at mealtime to get them moving. This in combination with the daily massages and range of motion exercises can keep their joints lubricated and healthy.
Continue their daily exercise and don’t let them become too lazy just because they no longer beg for walks. You might need to go a bit slower on the walks or cut them a bit shorter, but some daily exercise is best. Don’t exhaust them but keep em’ moving.
Elevate Water and Food Bowls
This can be great for any age of dog. Giving your dog an elevated food dish helps them eat standing up more comfortably, not having to crank their necks. This is better for their neck and back health in the long run. If your water and food bowls are on the ground, aging dogs might also begin to lay down when eating or find it difficult to enjoy. This is not great for their digestion so encourage them to stand with elevated bowls.
Harnesses To Assist In Lifting Them
The older your dog gets the less they will be wanting to jump in and out of the car. Harnesses have become increasingly popular amongst dog owners. Harnesses eliminate the risk of pulling on the dog’s neck, when on walks etc. They are also super helpful to help them stand up, or aid in getting them in and out of the car. If you can more easily lift them, this can take a lot of pressure off their aging joints.
Older dogs can easily slip on the stairs, out of the car, on a hike, etc. A harness keeps you in control so you can guide them. An unexpected emergency trip to the vet is the last thing you or your pet want, especially if you are not set up with pet insurance. An emergency vet bill is often a massive blow to the wallet.
Look For Changes
- Hearing: As your dog ages, a gradual loss of hearing is common. They may not spring up as fast at the mention of their favorite words. As they lose their hearing make sure you’re always approaching them from the front and not startling them.
- Eyesight: If they begin to hesitate at the stairs, or can’t navigate as well in the dark, this may be a sign of their eyesight declining. You can help them out with night lights, or keeping the hall light on in the evenings.
- Skin: Changes beneath the skin in aging pets can be quite common. If a lump is soft and fatty, then it is usually benign. However, if the lump is hard it might require surgery and testing for cancer. No matter the bump, get the vet to check it out for diagnosis.
Acting Fast When The Dog Seems Sick
Get that cough, runny nose, and nausea checked out! The older our dogs get the more serious things like this can become. Coughs can often appear as a sign of heart disease, lung disease, or a collapsing trachea. If they make honking sounds when drinking, or they ever have a hard time breathing, it is worth bringing them in for a check-up.
Aging dogs can benefit from regular vet check-ups. The better your vet knows your dog and their health history, the faster they can spot any potential issues. You of course will know your dog best, so any changes in behavior are definitely worth mentioning! Your vet can also help guide you towards the right food formula and supplements that can keep your dog acting and feel young for as long as possible.
Pet wellness plans are here for your aging pets as you can sign them up for it at any age and it becomes instantly activated. This is the perfect plan for your aging dogs as you can use it for preventative care and routine health maintenance.
Love Is The Best Medicine
Doing things with your dog that makes them happy can be the best medicine. If they can no longer get around the way they used to, that doesn’t mean they need to be homebound. If you can carry them or sit with them in their favorite park and allow them to socialize, it can significantly boost their mood. Keeping your dog happy is the most important thing for their immune system!