Senior Dog Care Tips

Intentional senior dog care can help the older dog live a longer and healthier life. The health requirement for the aging dog differ from the physical needs of a younger dog. This article will explore six senior dog care tips including a proper diet, exercise and coping with several behavioral and physical changes.

Addressing the Senior Dog’s Physical Changes

Somewhere between the ages of 8 and 14, a dog’s body can begin to change. The senior dog may develop arthritis and joint problems. You’ll notice that your dog seems less mobile or walks with a stiffness or even a slight limp. Adding chondroitin and glucosamine to the diet can help the joints stay supple. Supplementing the diet with some vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can be helpful for the weakening immune system.

Preventing and Decreasing Behavioral Changes

The senior dog may develop several new behavior patterns as she ages. These include separation anxiety, aggression or depression. There are simple ways to help your dog get through these changes and still thrive.

Separation Anxiety

You may notice your dog becoming anxious as you start to get ready to leave for work, and then you may come home to destruction or urine or feces in the house. If you are very casual about your departure and leave a kong with treats or a treasure hunt of treats, you create a positive association to the leaving without reinforcing the behavior. You can also act like you are going to leave but instead go sit on the couch to break up the dog’s conditioned response to the sound of the keys etc.

Aggression, Anxiety and Depression

Some older dogs become more depressed or anxious as they age. Depression can manifest as a sullen mood and loss of interest in dogs and it can also manifest through aggressive behavior possibly due to anxiety. Some senior dogs become more anxious because they have less acute hearing or vision. You can help them navigate times of anxiety by keeping routines consistent as much as possible and communicate with them using the sense that’s working the best.

The Best Diet for the Aging Dog

The senior dog has special nutritional needs. She still needs adequate protein and fat. The senior dog is often more prone to constipation so 3 to 5% of her diet will need to contain fiber. She also will be less able to metabolize calories and is more likely to become obese. Her caloric intake will decrease with a lower fat content in the diet.

Making Dietary Changes

Hopefully your dog has been fed high quality, natural food her whole life. If not, a senior wet food formula with natural ingredients can help minimize some of the signs of aging, particularly arthritis and constipation. The key is making the transition gradually over 2 weeks where you slowly transition out the old food. A homemade diet can be an excellent option but it’s important to get specific guidance on what ingredients to include.

Exercise and the Senior Dog

Even the oldest dog benefits from mild to moderate exercise or some kind of movement. Moving the limbs helps keep joints limber, keeps the heart and other muscles strong, and keeps the blood oxygenized. Exercise helps prevent and decrease depression and aggression.