Taking Care of Your Dog As They Age

One of the greatest things about owning a dog is that you get to be there with them for their entire lives. From their time as tiny pups to their golden years, you’ll be there at your dog’s side, taking care of them. As they age, however, dogs slow down a bit. They go from the bundles of excitable joy they once were to slower, quieter companions. As this process happens, you need to know how to keep them feeling well, both physically and mentally. Here’s how you can ensure that your dog has a great life as it gets up there in years.

Make Sure They’re Still Moving

Probably the most important thing you can do for your older dog is to keep them moving. Like humans, dogs tend to get slower and more lethargic as they get older. They may not be up for long runs with you anymore, nor may they love playing fetch like they once did.

That doesn’t mean that you should let them just sit around, though. If you stopped exercising as you got older, your body would start to break down faster, and you’d get more tired. The same goes for your dog. Taking them on daily, if not more frequent, walks will keep them mobile around the house and their energy levels high.

There are other benefits to taking your senior dog for daily walks, too. One is that it can expose other health issues. Issues like hip dysplasia and crucial cranial ligament (CCL) issues are much more visible as your dog moves. So, if your dog winds up needing something like TPLO surgery, you’ll know much sooner. And, of course, they’ll feel much more connected with you in their older years, which is always good!

Keep Their Weight Manageable

As dogs get older, they can start to put on weight. This comes with decreased physical activity, especially if they’re eating about the same amount as they were in their younger years. Letting your dog get bigger as it ages can bring on a whole host of other health issues. So make sure to watch their weight and ensure it doesn’t get too out of control.

Staying active helps keep your dog’s weight down, but it’s also crucial to pay attention to their diet. Feeding your dog small, portioned meals throughout the day is a good way to make sure their weight stays manageable. You can also switch out their old food for a senior-specific or low-fat formula, which will help you not only limit their calories but also give them the vitamins and minerals they need. Older dogs have different needs from younger ones, so make sure to ask your veterinarian about the foods your dog will need to stay healthy.

Mental Stimulation Is Still Key

As with humans, you have to keep a dog’s brain active as they get older, too. Even getting them something like a new toy from time to time keeps their minds sharper as they get older. There’s a huge variety of toys out there for dogs that can do more than just keep them occupied; they can keep your dog whip-smart, too.

Everyone’s heard the phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, this isn’t actually true! You can absolutely work on training your senior dog to do things that they couldn’t do before. Sure, it’ll take longer than it used to, and you might run your personal patience a little thin. If your dog is becoming deaf or blind, it will also be important for you to go slowly and give both verbal and manual commands. Though it may be exhausting, being methodical and loving with them can have a huge positive impact, both in the short term by giving them something to do and in the long term by preventing serious cognitive issues. Keeping your dog’s mind active is just as important as their bodies, so make sure to provide some mental stimulation.

Conclusion

Humans and dogs are ultimately not that different. Both of our species are animals, after all. So, it stands to reason that the best ways to keep your dog healthy as they age are the same as for humans: exercise, diet, and mental stimulation. Staying on top of these aspects of your dog’s health becomes more involved as they get older, but they also get more important. If you want your dog to enjoy their last few years with you as much as possible, keep them healthy and sharp.


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