If your pup has lost a bit of their pep, or their coat has begun to turn gray, they’ve likely entered the senior stage of their life. While it varies by breed, small dogs are considered to be senior citizens at the age of 11, while their larger canine counterparts reach seniority at about age 7.
To help catch health issues faster and keep your older pet in the best shape possible, we found five adjustments you’ll want to make to your care routine to best cater to your aging dog’s health and wellness.
1. Keep Them Active
Now more than ever, exercise and activity are essential for your dog’s health. Despite the common belief that older dogs are just “slowing down,” it could be a sign that your older dog is just in pain and is having trouble moving around at the speed they used to.
On the contrary, active dogs not only tend to be thinner, but also have higher metabolisms, which helps in warding off painful arthritis – a common symptom of aging.
And while we’re on the topic of metabolisms…
2. Rethink Their Diet
Proper nutrition plays a major role in maintaining your aging dog’s health. With lower energy levels, senior dogs are at a greater risk of developing obesity, so it’s imperative to get your dog a food that is specially designed for seniors.
Senior dog food is often lower in fat and calories to help prevent weight gain while fueling up your elder dog with the vitamins and nutrients they need.
3. Set Up Semi-Annual Vet Visits
Once your dog reaches senior age, it’s recommended to increase their annual vet visits from once to twice a year. By doing so, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) notes you’ll establish better baselines of your pet’s health with your vet, ensuring any abnormalities or minor concerns are caught sooner rather than later.
4. Care for Their Aching Joints
With old age comes achy joints and muscles. To help with inflammation, you can administer a few daily vitamins and supplements, including CBD oil (just be sure to run it by your vet first!).
And, to offer your aging dog’s bones some relief, comfy bedding, warm blankets or a heating pad, and even a dog massage will help! As Dr. Morgan explains to the folks at Chewy, in addition to feeling good, a pup massage soothes knots and increases blood flow to the muscles and joints.
5. Help With Their Handicaps
As your dog ages, they’ll likely experience changes to their bodies, including hearing and vision loss, slower and decreased mobility, and changes in energy levels. The best thing you can do for your pup is adjust to their new needs and cater to them as best as you can.
This means, if they’re experiencing hearing or vision loss, do your best to keep the environment calm and relaxing so they don’t get startled. If your dog is having a difficult time walking up and down stairs, try to confine their belongings (bedding, toys, bowls) to one floor so they don’t have to endure pain while moving around. You can also purchase pet ramps and stairs to help them make it up onto the couch or bed without needing to jump, eliminating strain on their joints.
Remember, just because your dog reaches a certain age doesn’t mean they’ll start to decline overnight. Just like people, the aging process for dogs is gradual, so by monitoring their health and making a few changes in the way you care for them, you can ensure your dog lives out their remaining years as happy and as comfortable as possible.