Your Dog’s Golden Years and How to Make it Last

Your Dog’s Golden Years and How to Make it Last. A dog’s life past its prime can still be an enjoyable experience for you and him. Read More.

Your Dog’s Golden Years and How to Make it Last

Dogs age a lot faster than humans. Dogs are considered mature once they are already two years old, and once they are around eight or nine years old we can already say that they are old.

As they begin to hit old age, their responses to food start to change. Some would gain weight even when eating the same amount of food that we usually give them, while others would lose appetite and not eat at all.

Once this happens, we need to face the fact that our beloved pets are already in their twilight years and we need to pay careful attention to what we are feeding them.

How old is an old dog?

Experts say that a dog’s breed and body weight will determine at which age he becomes geriatric. 

Generally, larger dog breeds tend to age faster than the smaller one. Besides, overweight dogs tend to show signs of ageing sooner compared to dogs that have lean bodies.

The rule of thumb is a dog is considered senior or geriatric when he reaches half of his life expectancy. 

For example, a small dog that has a life expectancy of around 15 to 20 years is considered old at around eight or nine, while bigger dogs who can live at around 12 to 15 years is old at six or seven years old. 

Generally, once your pet starts showing signs of slowing down, being often fatigued, lack of interest in food and other activities he used to have fun with, he’s entering old age.

What are the changes associated with ageing?

As they age, our dogs may start showing some physical and behavioural changes. 

Their coat starts to lose their sheen, their vision starts fading a little, their hearing starts deteriorating, and as a result, they also become easily startled. 

Older dogs will be more sensitive to the change in the weather, like non-stop panting and general fatigue in the summer, or chills and sneezing during the cold season. 

This is a result of the loss of muscle mass that they once had when they were younger. They may also start getting prone to dental diseases due to worn teeth.

Aside from these, older dogs are more likely to start developing conditions associated with old age. 

The most common among these is arthritis. You might observe your dog starting to have difficulty running up and down the stairs, or jumping up and down the couch. 

On some days, the simple act of standing up maybe too be painful for them. 

They may not be as patient with little kids who are rough handling them.

They begin to get restless in their sleep and you might start seeing spots and spills on the floor due to the uncontrolled bladder.

Due to lesser physical activity, older dogs tend to get fat. Since they do not exercise as much as they used to. 

Once a geriatric dog becomes obese, shedding the weight becomes problematic. 

This added weight, in turn, will worsen his arthritic condition, which will result in lesser and lesser physical activity. 

It is strongly advised to prevent your dog from getting obese at an early age than to have him shed the extra weight once he gets older. 

This will also steer him away from conditions like heart diseases and kidney failure later in his life. 

Once they start to age, extra care must be put on their diet to increase the quality and length of our dogs’ lives.

What are the special nutritional needs of older dogs?

Due to their slower metabolic rate, older dogs are most likely to become overweight. 

As they age, a dog’s energy requirement decreases and the unused calorie becomes fat. 

Experts pointed out the need for a low-calorie diet to prevent obesity and a high fibre diet to promote gastrointestinal health. 

Older dogs are also more prone to constipation so an increase in fibre intake is highly recommended. 

To increase the amount of fibre in their food, wheat bran can be added to regular dog food. 

For older dogs with perfect health, you can continue feeding the same dog food you’ve been giving them but in lesser quantity.

If your dog has a specific condition like diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease, a special diet plan created by a Vet or a Veterinary nutritionist might be necessary. 

For diabetic dogs, the goal is to delay the absorption of food to prevent blood sugar from increasing drastically. 

Lower fat and higher fibre diet are advised for diabetic dogs. For older dogs with kidney and liver diseases, fat and protein control are crucial.

Heavy intake of both put too much stress on your dog’s kidneys and liver.

To alleviate the symptoms of these diseases and to stop them from doing too much damage, a low-fat and high-quality protein diet is recommended. 

Also, a low phosphorus diet is advised for older dogs with kidney problems to prevent an electrolyte disturbance which leads to abnormally elevated phosphate levels in the dog’s blood.

On the other hand, if your dog is disinterested in food and is losing weight, you’ll have to seek the advice first of your Veterinarian so that the above health conditions can be ruled out. 

One of the reasons for lack of appetite can be difficulty in chewing dry dog food. 

By breaking up the kibble into smaller pieces or by moistening them up a little with some broth, they will be easier to chew. 

You can also try switching to canned dog food to see if this will increase his appetite. 

If all of these fail, you can switch to your Vet approved homemade diet. You can feed him boiled rice, potatoes, vegetables or chicken. 

Just make sure to consult your Vet first as the level of vitamins and nutrients in his food is critical in his advanced age.

Supplements for older dogs

To help older dogs with arthritis, many dog food formulations for geriatric dogs already contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate which can help ease the pain.

The owners can choose to give further supplements for these nutrients but experts pointed out that the formulation should be for dogs and not for humans.

If your dog is not getting enough amounts of nutrients from his food due to a lack of appetite, consult with your Vet first before buying any supplements to ensure beneficial results.

A dog’s life past its prime can still be an enjoyable experience for you and him. Just make sure to pay more attention to his diet and exercise. 

He will also need to see the Vet more regularly for checkups. Supplements can be considered if your pet is in pain.

Remember, your dog will only live in a small segment of your life but for him, you are his entire life. So if you can, make every moment of his count.

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