Aging dogs require different care than younger dogs. Some dogs will put on weight because of less mobility. Some become friendlier and want more attention from their owner, while others may become short-tempered or worried because they might not see or hear as well as they did before. They may be more susceptible to injury as they become less agile at avoiding dangers. Moreover, they will become more susceptible to several diseases. However, older dogs can live healthy, safe, and happy lives. As a dog owner, it is important to keep an eye on early signs of aging and take the necessary steps to keep your dogs healthy and safe.
What Happens When Dogs Get Old?
When dogs age, they may have less energy and might develop hearing and sight problems. Their organs and body systems stop working properly and they become more prone to conditions such as liver and kidney diseases, diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, and obesity. Dogs age at different rates depending on the dog’s unique attributes and the dog’s breed.
The most common signs of aging in dogs are:
- Joint stiffness
- Lazy moments
- Not recognizing their owners
- Lumps or bumps
- Lethargy or tiredness
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Increased drinking of water (which may be a sign of Cushing’s syndrome, diabetes, or kidney or liver disease)
Age-Appropriate Diet for Your Dog
It is important to have a balanced diet for younger as well as older dogs, as it plays an essential role for dogs to stay healthy. As dogs become older, they are prone to health problems like obesity as they move less because they have less energy. So, it is necessary to design a special diet for older dogs to fulfill all nutritional needs. Such dog foods must have low fats and calories to stop weight gain. Foods high in calories may also contribute to inflammation and weight gain, which are detrimental to a healthy and quality life. You may consult your vet or a veterinary dietician to help with modifying your dog’s diet.
Senior dogs also have less capability to absorb nutrients. Some dogs may require fewer calories because of less mobility and can gain weight, while others need more calories as they lose weight in older age. You can adjust their calorie intake for either condition with the goal or attainging and then maintaining your dog’s ideal weight. You should also choose foods or supplements that contain fish oils, antioxidants (such as lignans, melatonin, SAMe and/or milk thistle), vitamin B, and arginine, as these ingredients are good for your dog’s cognitive and mental health.
You may opt for canned food as it is delicious and easier for senior dogs to eat. Canned food may contain flaxseeds, blueberries, fish oil, carrots, sweet potatoes, chicken broth, chicken liver, oatmeal, and/or brown rice. But, you should avoid canned food that has artificial flavors, preservatives, corn, wheat, soy, or poultry byproducts. Food for senior dogs should also contain omega-3, omega-6, and fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, glucosamine and chondroitin or an egg shell membrane based joint support supplement for flexibility and mobility, and antioxidants to support the immune system and reduce oxidative stress throughout the body’s systems.
Regular Exercise for Dogs
Regular exercise is necessary for senior dogs to prevent weight gain as well as for overall health. Reduced mobility of dogs can cause frailty syndrome which is developed by loss of muscle mass that is the main driver of metabolism. You may consult your vet to get recommendations about special exercise instructions for mature dogs and also exercise limitations for dogs. You should start slowly and steadily with regular walks to build stamina first and light jogs if they can run.
You should be patient as mature dogs have less energy so even if your dog was able to run while he was younger, he may no longer have that capacity. Of course your dog’s favorite exercise will involve interacting directly with you. But this is not always practical or possible. So, as an alternative, you might consider using interactive laser toys which are good for the exercise of mature dogs. These interactive toys have installed pet cameras that feature a built-in pet-safe laser toy that you can control with your phone. These toys also have an autoplay mode to keep your pet active in case of your absence.
You can find devices specially designed for pet owners to observe the pet’s activity level. If the activity level of your mature dog is low, you can increase the activity by adjusting routine exercise and by adding more play time and long walks. If possible, each interactive light play session should end by tossing the dog one of his toys so that he or she feels the satisfaction of actually catching or fetching something as opposed to always chasing an impossible to catch target.
Supplements for Mature Dogs
Along with a healthy and balanced diet, it is also essential for the health of senior dogs to add supplements by proper consultation with your vet. These supplements may be fish oil, which is beneficial for joints, bones, skin, and coats, and glucosamine or eggshell-based joint support supplements for good joint health. Your dog should also receive probiotics, either through its diet or via supplements to maintain digestive health and a healthy immune system. Supplements can be mixed with their regular diets. The regular consumption of these supplements with time can help in maintaining the overall health of older dogs.
Aging is a natural process. You cannot stop it, but, as a pet owner, you can prepare yourself to adopt a healthy lifestyle for your senior dog. As dogs become older, their needs for living life change. They need special attention and a comfortable environment as they have less energy and are at a higher risk of getting diseases or having accidents. With proper care and attention, regular exercise, and a nutritional diet, your mature pup can live a happy and healthy life for years.