As a dog ages they go through a wide range of subtle and sometimes no so subtle changes as they age during the linear ageing process from puppy to adult to mature to old age.
Knowing how to recognise these changes and adapting your dogs health care and lifestyle is extremely important, in order to keep your dog healthy, happy and fit, and giving them the best possible chance of living a happy, quality long life.
To achieve this, you will need to make changes in how you care for your dog as they get older, and some these changes will include changing their food to senior dog food when they reach a certain age, whilst other changes to will happen through careful watch and care of yore dog.
Whether you're planning ahead, or your dog is of a mature age, you will need to cover all the bases when it comes to their health care and this article will cover the important factors that you will need to consider and plan ahead when caring for your dog as they get older.
Age related diet
One of the most important changes to consider is the diet of your dog when they reach a mature age. A diet for a mature or elderly dog is feeding them food that is specifically designed for they age and lifestyle.
Most dog food looks much the same as any other, it varies in taste and nutritional content and even scents. Foods that are designed for senior dogs vary significantly from foods designed for younger dogs. Senior dog food tends to be slightly lower in protein, as a dog gets oder they become less active, so often don't need as much protein as an older dog. The food may also be softer as dogs that age, often loose their teeth. They also tend to be more tasty and fragrant, as older dogs tend to loose their sense of smell and taste, so will need something appealing to encourage them to eat.
Foods for older dog often contain more nutrients and supplements, to help tackle the common problems with ageing such as mobility, brain ageing and urinary tract infections.
Not only will your dog show physical changes as they age, they will also show signs of their brain ageing (as with any animal including humans) As your dog becomes much older, the effects of brain ageing will become apparent and older dogs can also suffer from conditions such as dementia. You will need to be patient and make allowances for these changes, such as your dog forgetting some of the commands they've learnt over the years.
Your dog may also show signs of behavioural and temperament issues. Talk to your vet about any supplements you can introduce, or any activities that can help keep your dogs brain active and help delay the effects of old age.
Help keeping your dog mobile
You will notice as your dog ages they are slightly less energetic then when they were as a pup, although some are still very active.
All dogs will need to be walked and exercised regularly, but you will need to make allowances as they get older. You should by now be in-tune with your dog and recognise signs when they're trying to tell you something. If they've had enough of their walk, you must take notice and either take them home, or take them for shorter walks than usual. Remember that older dogs become stiffer in the morning and are prone to symptoms of arthritis. So keep an eye out for warning signs.
Your dogs senses
Older dogs sense are more likely to decline in their older age, and this will be apparent in various areas. As previously mentioned food for older dogs is designed to be tastier and smell nicer to entice them to want to eat. The eyesight and hearing of an older dog may begin to decline too, resulting in them missing verbal or physical commands from you. You will need to take this into account and be patient with your dog. Again, you can discuss these issues with your vet and they may prescribe your dog nutritional supplements to help with the ageing process.
Being aware of any problems or warning signs
As a general rule your dog should visit the vet at least once a year for their vaccinations and health checks. It is important for any owner to remain vigilant throughout the rest of the year for any warning signs or obvious changes in their health or behaviour.
Be aware that your dog may become stiff in the morning, or be showing signs of the onsite of arthritis. If in doubt you should visit the vet for their advice.
Older dogs will also need more attention paid to their teeth and gums. Looking out for any obvious signs for decay or inflammation of the gums. Keeping on top of this will help your dog be fit and healthy as they age.