Adjusting to Senior Dog Changes
We love our dogs unconditionally and that doesn’t change as they get older. Whether you’ve seen your dog grow from a spunky puppy to a slow senior, or if you’ve made the gracious decision to adopt a senior dog, you may notice there are quite a few differences between senior dogs and their younger counterparts. As many humans do, older dogs begin to want and need different things in life as they reach their later years. As dog owners, we have to learn to adjust to these changes and do whatever we can to continue to keep our furry friend happy and healthy as they age. Here are a few ways you can make your dog’s transition to senior status easier for both of you.
Embrace the change of pace. As dogs age, they start to move a little slower. Even the most rambunctious pup will eventually start to lose steam. You might notice that your dog doesn’t have the stamina they once did and their overall energy levels aren’t quite what they used to be. This doesn’t mean they’re destined to be unhappy. Your dog can still very much enjoy this new phase in their life.
The changes in their demeanor and energy might be shocking to you at first, but they’re simply a product of old age. You and your dog might have loved running miles together or hiking but now you might notice that they seem to lag behind, or flat out refuse to continue on. Some dogs might still love to play as they did when they were young, but others might prefer long naps over games of fetch once they’re older. You might notice that you have to let them out for more frequent bathroom trips or that they don’t even bother to get up when they hear a noise.
It’s tempting to want to push your senior dog to do all of the things they used to do in their youth, but as pet parents we have to accept that old age is a perfectly natural occurrence. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing and older dogs can often still do a lot of the things they’ve always loved, only in a different way. Allow your dog to be comfortable and enjoy their new slower pace of life. You might even learn a thing or two from their laid back demeanor.
Find new ways to enjoy each other's company. As our dogs reach their twilight years, we can continue to have fun and make special memories with them, we just might have to find new ways of going about it. If you and your dog previously enjoyed long runs, you can switch to walks. And if walks begin to be too strenuous for your old buddy, you can pull them along in a wagon so that they can still enjoy their neighborhood strolls. If your dog loved going on adventures with you, you can continue to take them for quick car rides to get out of the house and feel the wind on their face. Letting your dog sit outside and take in some sunshine with you while you garden can be a simple, yet enjoyable experience for you both. For senior dogs that love a good nap, you can always spend quality time together cuddling on the couch- they’ll happily binge that new Netflix show with you.
You might even need to make some accessibility changes to accommodate your dog and the changes to their mobility. Making changes like building steps for them to get into bed, or lifting them into the car can be very helpful in helping your dog to continue to maintain their regular habits. The little extra effort on your part goes a long way and will be totally worth it when you see how happy maintaining these activities makes them.
Switch up their nutrition. As dogs get older, the vitamins and minerals, as well as the amounts they need will change. It makes sense that an older dog would need a different kind of food than a puppy, because they’re in completely different stages of growth and activity. As dogs age, their metabolism slows down, making weight gain a common issue. They often begin to have issues with their vision and joints which makes exercising more difficult. As your dog gets older, it’s probably best to switch to the senior formula of their food in order to support their changing nutritional needs.
Senior dog food is specially formulated to support the needs of older dogs. It helps support a healthy weight and steady muscle mass by providing better quality proteins. It also has a higher fiber content which helps support digestion. Senior dog food often contains added vitamins and minerals that your dog didn’t necessarily need when they were younger, which will support their current age-related health issues. However, if your dog has serious health issues like diabetes or kidney failure, they might benefit from a special prescription diet. If you’re unsure, a veterinarian can help you weigh the options and determine the best diet for your aging dog.
Supplements can be very beneficial to older dogs that have vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Many like Vitamin E or Zinc can be added to your dog’s diet daily for an extra health boost. Other supplements like PetScy’s Joint Care Chews contain a combination of powerful ingredients to help treat and prevent a variety of health issues. For example, PetScy Joint Care Chews contain Chondroitin and Glucosamine. This combination reduces pain and inflammation, while promoting repair and rejuvenation of the joint and connective tissues. It can do wonders for joint pain and mobility when added to a senior’s dog diet.
Another lesser known symptom of aging in dogs is that they can easily become dehydrated. Senior dogs sometimes have trouble maintaining water balance, so they need more water than they did when they were young. Be sure to always keep your senior dog’s water bowl full, even if it means more bathroom trips.
Dogs love consistency almost as much as they love you. Doing all you can to maintain their routines and keep them comfortable as they age will ensure that you and your dog fully enjoy their senior years together.