We can’t unfortunately stop the aging process, but we can certainly ensure our pets stay as healthy and happy as possible as they hit those grey years. Age is not a disease and there is so much that can be done these days to make sure your older doggies are as comfortable as possible. Generally speaking, the senior years are from 7 years of age, but for those big dogs out there (mastiff, danes and the like) they are hitting their senior years at around 5.
Its really important to keep your dogs mobile as they age, but you certainly need to start dialling back the intensity to make things easier on their joints. If your dog is only just hitting the senior years and still as active as ever, then I wouldn’t be changing much in your regime, they’ll let you know when its time to slow down! If you have an older pooch or just one that is slower or has had past injuries, then I would look into doing something more low impact like hydrotherapy and physio sessions to ensure their joints keep nice and mobile and they keep up their muscle mass
There is definitely an ideal bodyweight for every dog, but in general we measure this by “body condition score” rather than the weight on the scales. Check out the chart below to see where your dog currently sits.
As your pet is aging you definitely want them to be in the “ideal” body condition score range, and if you have a larger breed or dog with sore joints then even tending towards a 2 would be ideal. The more weight your pet has to carry around, the harder it is for them to keep mobile, and as mentioned earlier, keeping your dog mobile is so so important! Not only for their physical health, but for their mental simulation and health as well.
The age old question of “is my dog in pain?”. There is the common misconception that just because your dog is not vocalising that they are not in pain. Animals have the incredible ability to just keep trucking on regardless of being in pain, instead of being like us humans and sitting around complaining! So if your dog is “stiff” or not wanting to do the same things anymore, such as jumping into the car or onto beds, its highly likely that this is pain related. Now is the time to start looking at an arthritis management plan with your vet. A pain free pet is a happy one!
Whether your dog is an indoor or outdoor pet it starts to become important as they age to make sure they have nice padded bedding. As they slow down, they start to spend more and more time sleeping, so make sure you start to look at some senior bed options. Don’t forget too that older dogs aren’t as good at maintaining their body temperature so some extra layers during those colder months would be much appreciated!
Senior dogs start to require slightly different foods and there are plenty of great ones on the market. Firstly, you need to feed a high quality food, not something you pick up in the supermarket or just a bunch of off-cuts from dinner. Pets that are aging, and in fact pets with any kind of disease process need a balanced and highly nutritious diet, to ensure they are getting all the macro and micronutrients necessary to allow the body to function at its capacity.
So here’s where you need to do a bit of research for yourself as each and everyone of you will have different ideals when it comes to food. Some will want convenience, some will want grain free, organic, home made and even raw.
For those who want convenience, there are some top brand commercial foods such as Hill’s j/d that are not only balanced, but have been scientifically proven to benefit dogs and cats with arthritic conditions. These commercial foods have been rigorously tested to ensure there is a completely balanced diet with extra’s such as omega’s and glucosamine, which have been shown to help with arthritis and aging. If your pet really needs to lose a lot of weight first, then you would look at specific weight loss diet and then transition onto j/d or similar once they are at a better weight
If you want organic/grain-free foods – these are becoming more readily available, make sure you do your research, make sure they have been AAFCO tested, make sure they are truly balanced and have all the essential nutrients your pet needs
You may want to make a home made diet for your pet, gosh I wish I had the time to do this! My recommendation here would be to get a diet professionally put together for you by a veterinary nutritionist, just giving meat and vege will not be enough, most homemade diets are lacking in certain essential vitamins and minerals, and don’t forget we need to give your pet the best care and nutrition possible!
You might be in the new craze of feeding a raw food diet, so again my recommendation here is to do your research, its not quite the place to discuss raw food diets here, but just bare in mind they are generally not a balanced diet, so you often need to supplement. If you truly want to go down this road I would take the time and chat to a veterinary nutrition specialist to ensure you are feeding the best diet for you pet
Ensuring your dog has all the vitamin’s and minerals they need as they age is so important.
There are some great supplements for senior pets on the markets these days, most of these are geared at pets with arthritis, but would be beneficial to any aging pet. They usually contain glucosamine/chondroitin, omega’s or a combination of these. If you are unsure what your dog might need, please have a chat to Dr Rebecca and she will be able to help you make a great decision to help your dog stay mobile.
Now is the perfect time to start getting some baseline bloodwork done on your dog. Even if you have a seemingly healthy pooch, I would strongly recommend you start getting a yearly senior panel done to ensure everything is ticking like clockwork. This is especially important if your dog is on any kind of medications.
It’s important to have at least a yearly check-up with your vet, but ideally every 6 months as they are aging. It’s the perfect time to check ears, eyes, nails, heart, lungs, belly and any lumps or bumps that may have surfaced since the last visit. Prevention is far better than cure, so make sure you keep up these yearly visits.
As your dog gets older, especially those little dogs, you’ll notice their nails don’t wear down quite so well as they used to. It’s important for the comfort of your pet to clip these back on a regular basis, some need it more than others so just keep a good eye on these. If you find that your dog is not a good candidate for nail clipping (i.e. they either want to eat you or simply can’t sit still) then take them down to your local vet and they will do them for you at a small cost. It should be a nice process for the both of you, so make sure there is plenty of positive reinforcement so that each time is just as easy as the last.
Older dogs will often start growing lumps and bumps over their body. Some of these like warts and fatty lumps are quite benign and won’t be of any harm to your pet. However, some other lumps that may look similar can be nasty little things. I would always recommend you get any new lump checked and sampled by your vet so you know exactly what you are dealing with. If you have an older dog with either large lumps or some lumps that need to be removed, don’t be scared to have this done. Older pets do very well under anaesthetic provided they are healthy otherwise, and you have a great vet that uses all the best anaesthetic and monitoring protocols.
This is usually more of an issue with smaller breed dogs but can happen with any breed so do monitor this well. When you have your yearly check-ups at the vet, they will tell you whether or not your dog needs a dental procedure done or not. I would strongly advise you get these procedures done at your earliest convenience. Just a simple scale and polish at an early stage will be much cheaper than if you leave it too long and teeth need to be extracted. Not only that but having a healthy mouth reduces your dogs risk of kidney infections and other problems down the track.
The main thing is to enjoy your senior pets and keep them as healthy as possible so you get to enjoy them for years to come. Enjoy xxx