How can you continue giving your dog the best care even in its twilight years?
Having a senior dog at home can be a real treat, especially if your dog has been caring and loyal to you and your family for so long. Old dogs are considered the “babies” of many of families because they are often gentler and they enjoy more peace and quiet than their younger counterparts.
If you happen to have an elderly dog at home, you may be wondering what kind of care you should be giving it at this point. Obviously, a very old dog would have more difficulties learning new behaviors. It’s not impossible, but again, it can be done.
However, if you’re more interested in learning how you can condition your dog so that it remains healthy, active and happy as it lives out its remaining senior years, here are some great tips to get you started on the right track:
- More Frequent Visits to the Vet
Why are vet visits more important more than ever?
Older dogs encounter health problems more frequently and more easily than young dogs. Their joints, muscles and organs aren’t as healthy and resistant to problems anymore, so more frequent visits to the vet is very important.
Bring your senior dog to the veterinarian for wellness checkups every few months, just to make sure that everything is working normally. Wellness checkups aren’t very expensive and you can consult with your vet if your dog is encountering some minor difficulties like lack of appetite on some days or being less active than usual.
- Watch Your Elderly Dog’s Weight
Like people, dogs encounter more health issues when they are overweight. When you visit your veterinarian, be sure to ask the vet to examine your dog if its weight is still within the ideal range.
Your vet will be able to tell you if your dog needs more exercise or if it has become underweight. Remember that at this point in your dog’s life, health issues can surface overnight and all we can do is to support our pets with sufficient love and medical attention.
III. Choose High Quality Food
An aging dog’s nutritional requirements are slightly different from the needs of younger adult dogs. Here are some important notes to help keep your elderly dog’s diet ideal:
- Less Calories – Unless you have a sledding dog that has plenty of work and exercise to keep it occupied on a daily basis, you need to check how many calories your senior dog is receiving in each meal.
The less active your dog, the fewer calories it will require in the long term. If you don’t regulate the calories, your dog may end up becoming overweight and arthritic.
- More Fiber Please – Yes, dogs need fiber too! Older dogs need additional fiber in their daily meals to help improve their digestion and prevent constipation.
- Age-Specific Food – If you have several dogs at home, you may be tempted to give your older dog what you give to your other younger dogs.
This feeding method can cause problems later on because for a long time now, dog food manufacturers have been creating distinct formulations for the different stages of a dog’s life.
Food for younger adult dogs tends to have more fat and calories so this type of food is not good for your elderly dog. Another important reason why you should be pickier with your senior dog’s food is that older dogs still need protein to function properly.
However, if your dog has to eat or go through a lot of fat to get the required amount of protein it needs per day, the extra calories and fat (which are no longer needed) will eventually burden your dog’s kidneys.
Renal issues are exceedingly common in senior dogs so spending a few more dollars on quality food is really a wonderful way to protect its ageing organs. Quality food for your senior dog won’t be more expensive because your dog won’t be consuming as much food as it did when it was younger.
- Supplementation – Veterinarians now routinely use supplements such as glucosamine to help senior dogs that are struggling with joint problems. If your dog is suffering from a chronic issue such as arthritis, do not buy supplements without first consulting with your veterinarian.
- Dental Care
If you haven’t been paying close attention to your dog’s dental hygiene these past few years, now would be a good time to do so. Senior dogs are more susceptible to gum diseases and tooth problems; brushing your dog’s teeth regularly will help stave off any serious oral problems.
There are also some great dental products in the market that help prevent tooth infection. Products like dental sticks are safe for senior dogs and have the added benefit of cleaning your pet’s oral cavity whenever you give them as treats.