Getting older can be ruff! Natural aging changes like achy joints, dental disease, and an increased risk of certain illnesses often plague our beloved senior pooches.
But just because they are a little slower, calmer, and wiser than they once were doesn’t mean that older dogs can’t recapture their puppyhood!
Note: If you aren’t sure whether your pooch has reached his twilight years yet, consider this: small and toy breed dogs live to be about 15 to 20 years old, while large and giant breed dogs may only have a life expectancy of eight to 15 years. Therefore, larger dogs tend to reach senior status at a younger age – roughly six to eight – and smaller pups may not get there until they are 10 or 11.
Regardless of where your dog falls on the senior spectrum, these 10 tips can help your old friend feel like a young pupper again!
1. Feed A High Quality Diet
Just as the dietary needs of elder humans begin to change, the same is true for our dogs. For healthy seniors, a low-calorie, low-sodium, high-fiber diet is best. Older dogs also benefit from extra moisture in the form of high-quality canned foods, homemade foods, bone broth or water added to their kibble. If your pooch has a specific health concern such as diabetes or diseases of the heart, liver or kidneys, consult your veterinarian to determine the best feeding regimen.
2. Add Supplements
Vitamins and supplements help support and bolster the different systems of the body. From a healthy immune system and strong joints to a lustrous coat and efficient digestion, specially-formulated canine supplements can help your senior feel young again! Some of the more popular supplements for senior dogs are glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin for aging joints and bone broth for boosted vitamins and minerals.
3. Make Your Home Senior Friendly
Aging dogs are at higher risk for household injuries involving stairs, furniture and slippery floors. Help your pup navigate your home by providing ramps, doggy stairs and non-skid rugs. Upgrading to orthopedic bedding will also help support and cushion old joints.
4. Water Therapy
Swimming is an excellent source of low-impact exercise for dogs with aging joints. It is also a great way to maintain muscle tone as senior dogs begin to slow down. Obese pups, those recovering from surgery, and dogs suffering from arthritis may benefit even further from treatment at an aquatic therapy facility. Heated pools and underwater treadmills are not only soothing, they are fun for your pooch!
5. Doggy Massage
Dogs of all ages love a good rub down, but did you know that some massage therapists are certified to provide therapeutic treatment to dogs? Canine massage not only relieves joint pain and muscle spasms, it improves digestion, reduces anxiety, stimulates the immune system, and promotes healthy blood flow throughout the body. Click here to learn more about animal acupressure and massage or find a certified therapist in your area.
6. Play Every Day
Never underestimate the power of play! Not only does daily activity help your senior’s body stay strong and healthy, it also promotes a sharp, alert mind. Try puzzle toys, varied outings, canine agility, or brain games like hide-&-seek.
7. Maintain Healthy Teeth
Dental health is about far more than just a pretty smile. Unchecked bacterial build-up in the mouth can cause bad breath, pain, tooth loss, and even lead to heart, kidney, and liver disease. Despite the importance of dental health, you should never begin an at-home regimen without first consulting your vet. Your pup may need a professional dental cleaning to remove excess plaque and tartar and return the mouth to a healthy state.
8. Put Your Pooch to Work
No, you don’t have to enlist your senior dog in the Army! However, providing your older pup with a purpose can stave off dementia and depression. The calm, gentle nature of seniors makes them perfect candidates to become therapy dogs in retirement homes or reading buddies for school children!
9. Watch That Waistline
Overweight dogs tend to age faster than their leaner cousins. Metabolic requirements decrease as senior dogs slow down so they require less calories to maintain health. Feeding the same type and quantity of food could lead to obesity putting your senior pup at an increased risk for arthritis and diabetes. Try a diet specifically formulated for seniors or ask your vet about whole, home-cooked and raw feeding options.
On the other hand, unexpected weight loss in older dogs could be a sign of illnesses such as thyroid disease or certain types of cancer. If your dog is losing weight without a change in diet or lifestyle, make an appointment to see your vet.
10. Keep The Love Coming!
The best way to keep your dog young at heart is to continue all of your favorite activities together! You may have to make some modifications to ensure your senior can keep up, but as long as your dog is happy and free of pain, there is no reason to stop doing the things you love.
Don’t forget to enjoy lots of snuggles, ear scratches and belly rubs along the way. Your dog’s body may be getting older, but his heart is still full of the same love and undying devotion.
Featured Image via Flickr | Eli Christman