Submitted By Jules Martins of Village Paws Pet Salon

Caring For Your Aging Dog

You love your dog(s) and who can blame you. They keep us company, offer protection and even kiss our tears away when we cry. They are always happy to see us and give forgiveness when we make mistakes. So of course you want to make sure your sweet friend lives a long, happy and comfortable life. And just like us, as your dog ages, he has different dietary, health and care needs.

If your dog is getting older and slower, you may be worried about how much weight he has gained. Or maybe you have a dog that once chowed down with gusto, but now seems to have lost interest in food. At what age is a dog considered senior or geriatric? “It really depends on the breed and body weight,” says Fred Metzger, a veterinarian at Penn State University. “Large and giant breeds age faster than smaller dogs.” In addition to breed making a difference, overweight dogs also age faster than lean dogs. As a rule of thumb, dogs are considered older when they’ve reached half of their life expectancy. Bigger dogs are considered older at around six years, and smaller dogs become older at around eight or nine. Before you make any changes to your dog’s life, take him in to see his vet to determine if he has any limitations or special needs.

Seniors and geriatrics generally need lower-calorie diets to help prevent obesity (a huge problem in seniors) and higher-fiber diets to keep the gastrointestinal system healthy. In the summer, I often buy veggies at local farm stands (beans, carrots, zukes) and boil them to use as treats. These are low calories and good roughage but make sure they are not too hard. But it may be time to switch to a senior diet and there are several key ingredients you should look for when doing so. A protein level of at least 24 percent and higher from animal sources like chicken is ideal. High blood pressure is a serious concern for aging dogs. There is no doubt dogs should consume an appropriate amount of sodium in their diets. Look for low sodium printed on the front of your senior dog food. Making sure your dog’s food has Omega Fatty 3 acids will help decrease any inflammation he may be suffering from. To combat and prevent arthritic conditions, most senior foods will contain Glucosamine and chondroitin. The only caution is that the amount of the omega-3 and glucosamine may not be adequate. Talk to your vet about adding a supplement to your dog’s diet.

Dental care is VERY important to keep your dog in tip top shape. Rotting teeth, inflamed gums and abscesses occur more frequently as they age and should be addressed asap. Not only are these conditions very painful, but they can affect your dog’s quality of life. Talk to your vet about your pal’s dental care.

Aside from the unconditional love and devotion that our dogs give us, keeping them healthy as they age can be beneficial to us as well. As long as your dog is able, adding more walks several times a day does a dog and his parent well, physically, mentally and spiritually. And as spring approaches this is a great time to get out and enjoy the wonderful reward nature gives us for surviving the snowy winter we had. Look for local walking trails and discover them with your buddy. I personally like Heritage Park in Chepachet. Your dog will have lots to sniff and explore but keep him on his leash. Many dogs owners walk there as well. New activities that stir your dog’s senses is so important for his overall general health. And don’t be surprised if you notice some great changes in you too.