As your dog gets older, their bodies and minds change. Beyond the greying fur and slower pace, you may see your dog’s energy levels drop or even illnesses take hold. In this article, we’ll talk about the ways you can adapt your care to your dog’s next phase of life and keep them happy and healthy!
Important note: Dog’s age differently. You could have a 13-year-old Jack Russell with all the pep in the world and no signs of slowing down. You could meet another 13-year-old Jack Russell that is much slower, with cataracts and digestive issues. Like humans, dogs are unique so personalize the following tips for your pup.
1. Upgrade your dog’s nutrition
We encourage people to feed their dogs the high quality food they can afford. This means making sure that your dog is on a high-protein diet with quality ingredients avoiding by-products, sulfates and too much grain filler.
As dogs get older they can develop more sensitive stomachs. So it’s even more important to focus on top-quality nutrition that mitigates the risk of diseases taking over.
For an extra boost, you might consider supplementing your dog’s diet with beneficial vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy and strong. We recommend:
Green-lipped mussel powder - excellent for mobility and easing the symptoms of arthritis
Fish oil with omega-3 - reduces joint inflammation
Vitamin C and/or E - good for promoting cognitive function
MCT oils - help with cognitive health such as memory and learning abilities
2. Schedule quarterly or bi-monthly checkups with the vet
To stay on top of your dog’s health, they’ll need to get over their fear of the vet! It’s important to have a thorough checkup at least every quarter to catch any potential illnesses early. Your vet will give you invaluable advice about nutrition, exercise, when to worry and when not to worry.
3. Adapt to new ways of playing
Games like fetch and tug-of-war can be strenuous on your dog’s aging body and worsen mobility issues.
So how can you play with your senior dog? We love puzzle games! Interactive puzzle games for dogs are perfect candidates for senior dogs as they’re usually quite low-impact while also providing mental stimulation.
4. Learn to recognize Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS)
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is more commonly known as “doggy dementia”. It’s extremely common in older dogs and doesn’t have a known cure. However, keeping your dog engaged in games that stretch their minds and soothing them when they’re anxious can help manage the symptoms.
Here is a list of what to look out for:
- Night howling
- Increased anxiety
- Repetitive licking
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
5. Find new ways to exercise your dog
Just like you may need to adapt your play, you’ll also need to adapt your exercise routine for your senior dog. Some dogs can still take long daily walks. If that’s the case, go for it! If your dog is struggling with arthritis or hip dysplasia, you can try taking shorter walks. Some senior dogs enjoy swimming too as it’s weightless on the joints and allows your dog to go at their own pace.
The biggest mistake is to cut out exercise for your dog altogether. Even if your dog only has the energy to walk around the kitchen table with you twice, that’s better than forgoing your walk altogether.
If your dog has arthritis or hip dysplasia, you might want to look into a pet physical therapist to teach you a simple mobility routine you can do at home to help your dog’s recovery after exercise.
6. Research ways your dog’s physical health may change
Certain dog breeds are indeed more susceptible to certain ailments as they get older. German Shepherds and Labradors are susceptible to hip dysplasia. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to arthritis and Mitral Valve disease (a kind of heart disease).
If you know your dog’s predominant breeds, it’s worth researching what they could be prone to, the early signs and how you can support them. Rely on your trusted vet for the latest research and information about any illnesses you’re concerned about.
7. But don’t worry about normal signs of aging
At the same time, don’t become a helicopter pet parent! You’ll be surprised by the times you find a lump or bump on your older dog and it’s just a fat deposit or mole. We can become hypersensitive as our dog’s age but there’s no need. Your pooch is often just going through the normal process of harmless aging.
Here are the things you don’t need to be too concerned about:
- Greying fur, particularly around the snout, ears and paws
- Bad breath (unless it’s extremely foul)
- Lumpy fat deposits under the skin called lipomas
- Slightly cloudy eyes
- Hearing loss
- Slowing down
- Labored walking
- Change in activity level
With these tips, you can help your dog have an amazing senior life full of adventure, activity and love. Remember that your dog is still the same personality they always used to be, they just might have different challenges going into their senior years. Adapt your care to their needs and you’ll keep your senior dog thriving!