Editor's Note: This is a guest post on the Grey Matters Blog and not written by anyone affiliated with Grey Muzzle. We allow guest contributors from time to time in order to provide our supporters with a wide range of topics pertaining to senior dogs.
The age your dog becomes a “senior” depends on how big your four-legged friend is. Smaller dogs are considered seniors when they’re about 11, while larger-sized pups reach senior status by the time they’re 8.
No one wants to witness their dogs get older, or some of the not-so-pleasant things that come with aging like running low on energy or getting sick more often. Older pets are more susceptible to things like arthritis, dental issues, vision and hearing problems, and a variety of other conditions that could lead to expensive vet bills and a lot of stress.
But, the old saying about only being as old as you feel can actually ring true for dogs, too. There’s nothing any of us can do to slow down the passage of time for our fur babies. But, there are ways you can make the most of your dog’s senior years. By helping them to stay healthy, active, and stimulated, you can make them feel good no matter how old they are. You may even be able to extend their years a bit.
So, how can you help your senior dog feel like a pup again, so they have the energy to enjoy their golden years?
Monitor Their Diet
A dog’s diet is such a huge part of what can keep them healthy. As dogs get older, their dietary needs tend to change and they may need more of certain nutrients to keep both their body and mind in top shape. Senior dogs tend to need food that is lower in fat and calories, since they are often less active and their body may not burn fat as well as it used to.
If you’re worried your dog isn’t getting the nutrients they need through their food, you can use supplements to make sure their diet is balanced. It’s important to do your research on and talk with your vet about different supplements and what they can do, as well as any potential risks involved.
Vitamins C and E can reduce inflammation and help aging dogs with memory problems. There are other ingredients too that are extremely beneficial for older dogs, including omega-3 fatty acids. Making sure your senior pup gets enough omega-3s will help with things like:
- Vision issues
- Heart disease
- Brain degeneration
It’s also important for your aging dog to get plenty of antioxidants to boost their immunity and improve their overall health. You can buy supplements, of course, but trying to include antioxidant-rich foods in their diet is a better option. Things like blueberries and apples are rich in antioxidants and most dogs love them.
Keep Them Active
Exercise is important for everyone, and it should be a staple in your dog’s daily routine at any age. But, as your pooch gets older, different types of exercise and activity become even more essential for their health.
Older dogs tend to struggle with joint and muscle issues. So, they may not be able to run around the way they did when they were younger. Keeping them active can help to alleviate some of those problems if you do it the right way. One of the best things you can do is to be consistent with your exercise, rather than trying to do something challenging with your dog one day a week.
A twenty-minute walk around your neighborhood every day is perfect for most older dogs. It can improve their heart health and keep their muscles and joints strong without causing them to tire out too quickly or experience any pain. You know your dog best and what exercise level is comfortable and enjoyable for them.
Exercising, especially outside, can also stimulate your dog’s mind. It’s easy to think about your pooch’s physical health, but making their mental health a priority as they age is also important. So, what are some other ways in which you can engage their brain?
Engage Their Mind
Again, spending time outside and letting your dog sniff and explore is one of the easiest ways to keep them mentally stimulated. There are other steps you can take to boost their brain activity as well, including:
- Scent games
- Food puzzles
- Taking them to explore new places
You can also ignore the old statement about not being able to teach old dogs new tricks. If your dog is still physically able to move around, you can absolutely teach them some new tricks! Dogs are lifelong learners. Not only do they love to keep their minds stimulated, but they especially love praise from the humans in their lives. By spending that time with them to teach them something new (and rewarding them as they learn), you’re stimulating their mind and tightening your bond at the same time.
It may not be easy to watch your best furry friend get older. Recognizing signs of aging like a greying muzzle, less energy, and even health issues can help you adjust their care as needed.
You can make your dog’s senior years healthy and happy for both of you by keeping some of these tips in mind. You might just be surprised at how much a few simple changes can transform your older dog back into a “puppy-like” state, giving you more time to have fun and make memories together!