The thought of our four legged friends getting older can be sad for many pet owners and we can often be in a state of denial about our devoted companions losing their youth, vitality and their health. But however you may feel it’s important to understand that old age is inevitable and recognising the signs early on means you can start making simple lifestyle adjustments that keep your dog happy and healthy well into their golden years.
Recognising the signs your dog may be ageing:
lagging behind on walks
stiffness when getting up
changes in appetite
changes in temperament
spending more time alone
spending more time sleeping
Whilst these signs can indicate general ageing, if you are worried then you should consult your vet. If there aren’t any specific health concerns that need addressing then there are many home and lifestyle adjustments that you can make that will really help your dog be more comfortable.
Weight regulation in older dogs is critical to ensure that stress on joints and risks of obesity related diseases is kept to a minimum. As dogs get older they need less calories so it’s important that you either switch to a senior food or reduce the portion size of their current diet.
The type of exercise you do with older dogs is very different to that of younger dogs. Opting for ‘little and often’ periods of gentle exercise will help to keep joints mobile without becoming overly stressed. Taking regular gentle walks, swimming or hydrotherapy is ideal.
The majority of older dogs will have joint degeneration and some level of osteoarthritis, however you can reduce the rate that joints deteriorate at by providing good quality nutrition and supplementation. I would always recommend feeding oily fish once or twice a week and providing a good quality supplement that contains glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped mussel.
Most modern homes have wooden or laminate flooring but this can represent a really unsteady surface for older dogs. Using mats and rugs along your dogs main walking paths through the home can really help them be comfortable in getting about. Raising their bed can help them get up on a morning and raising their food bowl can reduce signs of neck pain when eating or drinking.
Dogs really do give us a lifetime of devoted service and helping them in their golden years is a really special way to recognise their loyalty. Making some simple home and lifestyle adjustments can really help them to flourish as senior dogs and keep them healthy, happy and pain free.
Paul Manktelow regularly appears in the media as one of the UKs leading veterinary surgeons. His accomplished career as a vet allows him to talk on a number of key animal subjects and he regularly provides valuable advice to pet owners across the UK. Appearing on TV shows such as Junior Vets, Animal Madhouse and This Morning, he also writes columns for the Times, Dogs Monthly and blogs on his popular website Vital Pet Health