Aging is a normal part of every dog’s life. At some point, your furry friend’s needs are going to start changing, and it is your responsibility as an owner to keep up. This may feel scary for some owners, especially those who have never cared for a senior dog before. But don’t worry – as long as you keep taking great care of your pup, you only need to make a few small tweaks to your usual routine.
Despite what dog food brands will tell you, you don’t necessarily have to switch to “senior” dog food when your dog starts getting older. As long as your dog is healthy with her current diet, you can continue feeding her the same.
One common exception is if your dog develops liver or kidney problems, in which case she will have to eat less protein. Other health issues can impact your dog’s ideal diet in different ways, which is one of the many reasons why regular vet check-ups are essential.
Exercise is just as important to senior dogs as it is for young, energetic ones. It just requires a bit more patience and care since you don’t want your dog to overexert herself, risking injury. Continue going for daily walks, but be alert to whether your dog seems to tire sooner than she used to. If you notice her any changes, adjust your walk accordingly, by either slowing down or going for a shorter walk.
You can also try new and varied forms of exercise. According to Cesar’s Way, swimming is a great exercise option for older dogs since it is easy on the joints and naturally relaxing.
There are several supplements that can help keep your dog healthy as she ages, from essential fatty acids that help keep skin healthy to digestive supplements that help her get the most nutrition from her meals.
There are also some less conventional supplements available. For example, CBD oil has recently become a health trend with humans, but some research points to its potential to help older dogs with joint pain, nausea, and brain health. This CBD review guide can help you pick out the best brand and dosage for your dog.
Always ask your vet whether your dog needs any supplements, and do not give her anything without the vet’s go ahead.
As dogs grow older, their fur becomes more brittle and coarse and their skin gets drier and more sensitive. This means that you may have to groom your dog a bit more often to keep her comfortable, which includes regular brushing and bathing. The Grey Muzzle Organization has a great guide to bathing a senior dog, with useful tips from choosing a shampoo to massaging sore or arthritic areas.
Just like humans, it is common for dogs to experience reduced mobility when they get older. You will need to adjust to this by ensuring the house is still safe, comfortable, and accessible. Helpful accessories for senior dogs include steps, slings, hind leg harnesses, and heated or orthopedic mattresses.
Regular vet checkups are the most important way to make sure your pet is aging healthily. The minimum is usually twice a year, but it may be more often if you have a particularly large breed or one that is prone to illness (such as a French bulldog). Your vet should be your main source of guidance and advice for the various topics explored above, and should be your first port of call if you sense anything is wrong.
It is important to remember that not all dogs age the same. Breed, size, genetics, and lifestyle all impact how quickly and how well your dog ages, so there are no hard and fast rules. The best you can do is keep a close eye on how she develops and refer to your vet if you sense she is showing and feeling her age. As long as you are paying attention and making the right adaptations, your dog should still have several happy years ahead of her.