I am super excited to introduce you to a guest blogger, Mark, who loves dogs (and all pets) just as much as we all do! He has taken time out of his busy schedule to write about how to keep your dog healthy through middle/senior age.
Kelly Update 2023: This is still an important article to consider! Our pets won’t age in reverse like in the move, “Benjamin Button”. I have left everything Mark has said, but just added a little bit more information at the end of each section.
Thanks again Mark for your article!
How to Keep Your Dog Healthy Through Middle/Senior Age
Dogs experience age-related problems and challenges as they get older. Usually, a dog is considered senior when it reaches seven years of age. Thinking about such changes begs the question, how to keep your dog healthy through middle/ senior age.
Consider taking these amazing steps to improve their health. By doing your part to keep your senior dog healthy, you will allow them to give you many years of companionship. Follow these tips and your middle-aged/ senior dog’s health will be assured.
Healthy Food and Nutrition to Keep Your Dog Healthy
Diet is a very important point that contributes to the overall health of your fur buddy. For senior dogs, the nutritional requirements usually change and evolve. All middle age/ senior dogs have specific nutritional needs based on breed, age, weather, metabolism, and activity level.
The middle-aged/ senior dogs are prone to many health issues including arthritis, weight gain, cognitive issues, and appetite loss. Their diet greatly affects the quality of their life. These health problems can be affected or improved by the daily diet you feed.
Healthy seniors need more protein to maintain muscle mass. Many middle/ senior dogs need more protein, fibre, or other nutrients to ensure their bodies are well taken care of. You should give middle age/ senior dogs a diet that is tailored to meet their needs. You can consult your vet to select the best diet for your middle-aged/ senior dog’s specific needs.
Don’t forget that a quality diet is key. According to the AKC, it is important to consider protein (like Mark said), calories, sodium, phosphorous.
Diets low in sodium and phosphorous can help reduce heart and kidney disease. Vets may prescribe a prescription diet if there is a concern.
Our older dog’s metabolism isn’t going to be the same as when they were young, so be sure you are feeding your baby the correct amount of food…and don’t buy the sad eyes and the whining stating they are starving!
Regular Vet Visits to Keep Your Dog Healthy
You should take your middle-aged/ senior dogs for regular check-ups at the vet’s office. Regular vet visits give your vet the chance to evaluate the overall health of your senior dog.
You will also get the chance to discuss any unusual behavior your senior dog is displaying. Your vet will identify irregularities in case your fur buddy has any issues.
The vet will assess the general health of your middle-aged/ senior dog. These vet examinations can detect problems in older dogs before they become life-threatening. Regular vet visits improve the chances of a longer and healthier life for your dog.
I agree wholeheartedly to this section. This is similar to why we, as humans, have annual check-ups. We want to take care of our aging bodies (especially after 40!) and stay proactive when it comes to healthcare.
The longer you wait to treat an illness, the worse it gets, and unfortunately, the more money you pay. Same with our furbabies.
Introduce Dietary Supplements When Appropriate
If your senior dog is not getting a complete and balanced diet, it may develop dietary issues. You can introduce supplements into your dog’s diet.
*Dietary supplements will not take the place of a healthy diet but will be an additional support to a healthy life. *
You can give joint supplements to help keep your dog’s joints from hurting. Also, omega-3 fatty acids help with brain, skin and joint health.
Be cautious about giving human supplements to pets. Your senior dogs need dietary supplements if they’re suffering from arthritis, hip dysplasia, neurological problems, or poor coat conditions. Your vet can also assess whether your middle-aged/ senior dog needs a supplement or not.
Supplements can definitely help improve our dog’s quality of life as they age. One caution I would give is that before you purchase any supplements, discuss with your vet to see if the supplements may interfere with any medication they are already taking or will prohibit absorption of minerals/vitamins from their food.
Another thought is to discuss CBD for dogs. I have heard from many pet owners that their pets have benefited from CBD. Be very aware of where the CBD is sourced and be sure it is organic. (Again, another topic to discuss with your vet!)
A Comfy Place to Live
Arthritis and hip and elbow dysplasia are common issue for older dogs. These dogs deserve a comfy place to relax and sleep.
A quality orthopedic dog bed can ease their arthritic joints while helping them stay cozy and comfortable. These beds are designed to provide extra support to your dog’s joints and bones.
You must provide a warm, comfy, and quiet place for relaxing and sleeping. Choose a low-traffic area in your house for your senior dog to relax and sleep. During winters, provide them cozy blankets to keep them warm. Also, keep their space clean and free of germs.
Kelly’s Add: If you have dogs like mine, who don’t like dog beds…because they prefer to sleep on your bed or the couch, there are still products that can help keep your dog comfortable.
We utilized a set of steps that Nuka could climb to reach our bed. There are also orthopedic blankets that can be used if your dog prefers the couch or your king size bed!
Regular grooming and careful weekly examinations are essential for your aging dog’s overall well being. Regular grooming can help you to spot bumps, lumps, wounds, and potential health problems on your senior dog’s skin.
Grooming also helps to remove any loose fur due to shedding, dirt, debris, or ticks and fleas. You should arm yourself with the right grooming tools for your senior dog. Make grooming a positive experience for your senior dog, filled with praises and rewards.
Be sure you know how often your pet should be groomed. For example, my Malamutes should only be groomed about once a quarter, while other breeds need to be bathed weekly.
A professional groomer also may be better equipped to groom your dog. When looking for a groomer, look for one that makes grooming a positive experience and also understands the needs of a senior pet. It may be a little more expensive; however, it is worth the expense…and don’t forget to tip!
Regular Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Senior dogs should be given regular exercise and mental stimulation to avoid health issues. Regular physical activities will strengthen your aging dog’s muscles, enhance circulation and improve their heart and brain function.
Always choose a physical activity that is appropriate for your dog’s age and stamina.
Mental stimulation also plays a big role in keeping your dog healthy. Try to provide ample opportunities for mental challenges to keep your dog young at heart and prevent boredom.
Each senior is different. Nuka, my female, had a good amount of short energy spurts, but Beckham, my male, is the type to go slow, but for a long distance. Work at your dog’s speed and watch for any changes in their energy level.
If your dog loves toys or stimulation activities, you can check out Amazon or Chewy for some great options, too.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining your senior dog’s weight is one of the easiest ways to increase his life expectancy. Healthy weight is a major factor that contributes to your dog’s overall well-being.
Obesity in senior dogs increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, difficulty breathing, skin problems, and other conditions. It can shorten your dog’s life expectancy and decrease their quality of life.
Sudden weight loss in a senior dog is also a source for concern. Hyperthyroidism, diabetes and kidney disease are common causes of weight loss in senior dogs.
This goes hand in hand with the quality of food you feed your dog. Foods that have more additives or more empty calories are going to be less filling. Discuss with your vet the best food to fee your senior for healthy weight maintenance.
What are Physical Signs of Aging in Dogs?
Dogs show a variety of signs of aging besides a graying muzzle. Some hallmarks of aging in dogs include:
- Slowing down or difficulty getting around
- Increased barking
- Cloudy eyes or difficulty seeing
- Awful breath due to gum disease or tooth decay
- Weight fluctuation
It’s important to note that physical signs of aging might look different in dog breeds.
Quick note: Contrary to the popular belief, dogs do not age at a rate of 7 human years for each dog year.
What problems are more common in senior dogs?
It’s easy to spot the outward signs of aging in dogs. Here are a few common health problems in senior dogs:
- Hearing loss causing varying degrees of deafness
- Vision loss due to tissue degeneration in the eyes
- Joint problems
- Dementia/Cognitive Dysfunction: When dogs lose cognitive function as they age
- Cancer: It accounts for almost half of the deaths of dogs over 10 years of age
- Heart disease
- Kidney problems
- Gastrointestinal issues
Aging should not be painful for your furry companion. For your senior dog’s health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian. They can make the best recommendations for your dog.
Kelly’s Add: Another aspect to consider is when it is time to let your pet run over the rainbow bridge. If their quality of life has decreased significantly due to aging (cancer, heart disease, they can’t get up anymore or are constantly having trouble breathing), it may be time to let them go.
The only thing they ask of you is to be there when it is time. You are their family and want you to be the last person they see before they run through the fields on the other side.
Just like us, age is not a disease for dogs. Although senior dogs may develop age-related problems, good care allows them to live healthy lives in their senior years.
Remember, when you bring home a furry companion, you are committing to a long-term relationship. As a loving dog parent, these tips will help your middle-aged/ senior dog to stay healthy.
You can’t make your senior dog live forever, but you can help your furry pal live the healthiest life possible. A healthy senior dog can save you from a lot of stress and vet visits. All you need is to make some effort to support a healthy life for your senior dog.
Kelly’s Add: Thank you so much for reading this article. I hope it helps to keep your pet’s in good health…longer!
Let me know if you have tried anything else to help keep your middle/senior dog’s healthy.