As our dogs mature, they often become more confident companions. They know the routine, what is expected of them, and they are more easy-going. However, our furry friends do experience some physical changes on the inside that often start before you begin to see changes on the outside.
Determining when your dog is a senior mainly depends on your dog’s size and breed. Large breeds can enter their “golden” years as early as 6 years of age, while smaller dogs may not become seniors until they are 9. Regardless of when they mature, all dogs experience changes associated with age – a slowing metabolism and body composition changes.
Caring for older pets can require some extra work, but it’s well worth the effort to help your four-legged family member mature gracefully. Here are six easy ways you can make a difference in your best friend’s life.
Feed Your Senior Dog the Right Food
As your furry friend ages, there are important considerations for your dog’s breed and health that require special nutritional care. There are a wide variety of “senior” dog foods on the shelf today, but some are better-suited to support your senior pet than others. As such, you’ll want to address a few key factors to support your senior friend.
Identifying if your senior dog’s food provides the right ingredients and nutrients is a great place to start. You’ll want to make sure your dog receives several nutritional benefits, such as:
- High-quality protein to supply essential amino acids that help support muscle mass and the immune system.
- Controlled levels of fat and protein to help support a mature, active lifestyle.
- Gentle fiber blend to help support healthy digestion.
- Naturally-sourced Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids to help maintain brain, skin, and joint health.
Easy to chew
Aging dogs may have a harder time eating food if their dental health deteriorates. To help diminish stress around mealtime, try a dry dog food kibble that is easy to chew. For example, both Bil-Jac Small Breed Senior and Senior Select are slow-cooked and made into “easy to chew” bites that are both delicious and gentle on your aging dog’s teeth and gums.
Some dog’s appetite can diminish with age, so it’s important to feed your dog food they like to eat. If you begin to experience a lack of appetite with your pooch, don’t add people food to your dog’s diet. This process will throw your dog’s diet off balance and can lead to more finicky eating habits in the future. Instead, try adding a some wet food or switching to a kibble that’s slow-cooked to bring out the taste.
Your dog’s breed can determine which senior dog food is best for him. Smaller breeds have special nutritional needs that pet parents should continue to consider as your dog ages. Choose a size-appropriate senior dog food to make sure your best friend’s nutrition is tailored to their exact needs.
Maintain Both Physical and Mental Stimulation
Younger dogs aren’t the only ones that need to move around. Frequent exercise should still be part of your senior dog’s routine, although the intensity and duration of each session will gradually lessen as your dog continues to mature. Maintaining an exercise schedule helps to prevent obesity, support muscle tone, and improve overall mobility.
Mental stimulation is just as important as regular exercise. Puzzle toys and other fun activities can help your best friend work for treats and keep their mind active.
Monitor Your Senior Dog’s Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is important at all life stages, but is even more important with a senior dog. There are a variety of ways to tell if your dog is overweight, so keep track to see if your best friend needs to shed a few pounds. Adjusting how much food you feed each day will go hand in hand with exercise and conditioning.
Of course, being overweight is only one potential health issue. Some dogs lose weight as they age, rather than gain it. Regular visits to your veterinarian are a must for senior dogs, and weight loss should be evaluated by an expert to see if it signifies any underlying issues.
Address Joint Health and Support
As senior dogs get older, they tend to slow down as their joints can’t keep up at the same pace as when they were younger. Pet parents often assume slow movement is inevitable, but your dog really may benefit from joint health support.
If you notice your dog struggling to walk up the steps, rising slowly out of bed, or falling behind, you might want to consider adding a product formulated specially to support joint health and immune function. For example, Bil-Jac BreakThru® Joint Health can help support the health of your dog’s maturing joints while providing calcium, vitamin D, and protein for healthy joint and musculoskeletal function.
Avoid Stressful Situations if Possible
Stressful situations and abrupt changes to your senior dog’s daily routine should be avoided if possible, as many dogs may not handle adjustments to lifestyle well. If a significant change does need to be made, try to introduce it gradually over time.
Add Some Thoughtful Accommodations
As your best friend matures, there may be some simple things you can do to help him adjust to the changes he may experience. Jumping on the couch or the bed may be more of a challenge, so a set of soft stairs could be a helpful item to use. If your dog is starting to deal with hearing loss, approach them from in front to not startle them. Even a small thing like a thicker, softer bed to cuddle up on could be a much-appreciated gift for your senior dog.
Give Them Unconditional Love
All in all, love and care are two of the most important things your best friend needs. Your mature dog still needs your attention and affection. You’ve been through a lot together and giving your furball extra love as he enters his golden years is a wonderful way to keep your bond happy and healthy for years to come.
Your dog’s care and nutrition are important at every stage of life. Join the Best Friends Club today to receive our special newsletter with more nutritional information, special training tips, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac products.