A dog can be your best friend for its whole life, but just like people, their needs change as they age. While a puppy is demanding in terms of training and the amount of supervision you have to give them, a senior dog has already learned what they need to know and may well have been of little trouble for a decade or more, yet now they are feeling their age they may become a little more in need of special care.
Does Your Dog Need Less Exercise?
Is your dog happy? Pet happiness is usually linked to the amount of exercise they get, but older dogs are less happy with too much exercise. Young dogs always want to play and are happy to walk or run with you as far as you want to go, enjoying every minute of it. However, as your dog begins to move into the senior category, they will have less energy and may not be as excited to keep going as before on walks.
You may notice that your dog starts to be resistant to going for walks, or that when you are out, they stop and seem to be saying ‘this is enough, I want to go home and rest’. This is normal, and while it is important to still offer your dog plenty of opportunities to be active and to take them for walks, it is also a good idea to ‘listen’ to what their behavior is telling you. They may benefit from a different routine, for instance, more frequent short walks as opposed to very long ones. You may also want to consider things like joint supplements that can help them feel more comfortable and agile when exercising.
Look Out for Health Problems
As with people and other animals, dogs are more likely to experience health problems as they enter old age. These can include all kinds of things, such as diabetes, joint problems, cancer, and a lower immunity to common illnesses. Because of the increased likelihood of treatable illnesses for older dogs, it can be a very good idea to schedule regular checkups with your vet, rather than only taking your dog there when something is obviously wrong or they are due a vaccination. Vets are used to doing general checkups on older pets and recommend a health check at least once a year for older dogs.
Diet and Older Dogs
Another good way to take care of your senior canine is to switch to a food designed for their age group. Older dogs can have different nutritional needs in terms of vitamins and supplements, and can also benefit from a lighter diet, especially if they are exercising less than before. Try switching your dog to a food made for senior animals and you may find they both prefer this and are healthier as a result.
Senior dogs can live healthy, happy lives and still be great pets, but you do need to consider that your dog’s needs are changing at this time in their lives, so you will need to change how you take care of them too.