Caring for a Senior Dog

Posted: October 23, 2011 by at K9 Health & Fitness

Canine fitness and nutrition needs are surprisingly similar to human needs. This is especially true of older dogs. Just like humans, as dogs age their bodies and minds may suffer.

Senior dogs that do not get enough exercise are prone to obesity which drastically reduces life expectancy. Older canines that don’t get the right veterinary care can be subject to hearing, vision and dental problems early on. And senior dogs that lack mental stimulation are likely to become depressed or even develop disorders like separation anxiety. Understanding how to care for an older dog is critical to ensuring that the twilight years of their life are as comfortable, interactive and happy as can be.

Mental Fitness for Older Canines

Physical fitness and nutrition are likely the two most publicly-recognized needs for older dogs, but few people consider that senior dogs need mental stimulation as well. All dogs love to work in some way – most breeds were literally bred to work. Whether this work is ratting, canine search and rescue, herding, guarding, tracking, retrieving or any other task, the need to work is so deeply ingrained in most dogs that “retirement” can have a negative impact on their mental state. In order to keep your older dog mentally fit, consider the following:

*Allow working dogs to continue to work (but at reduced capacity for their age and condition)
*Regularly ask your dog to perform tricks
*Hide things and let your dog find them
*Play games with your dog
*Socialize your dog: let him interact with people and other dogs

Physical Fitness for Senior Dogs

Each senior dog’s age and condition will determine how much exercise they need, so it’s important to discuss this issue with your veterinarian. Coincidentally, the activities used to exercise your dog and keep things fun are identical to the activities required to keep your older dog mentally fit: playing fetch, hide n’ seek, socializing at a dog park, and so on. Of course, taking your dog for regular walks at a pace appropriate for them is perfectly acceptable as well.

Diet for Older Dogs

As dogs age their metabolism slows down just like humans. They digest slower and absorb fewer nutrients. They may require supplements to help with arthritis, coat and skin issues or other problems. Feeding your older dog the highest quality food you can afford is crucial to keep them in optimal condition, but every dog has different needs. Talk to your veterinarian about what’s best for your senior K9.

In Summary – The most important thing that you can do for your aging dog is to provide regular veterinary care that places an emphasis on the teeth, joints and cardiovascular system. Regular checkups and a good senior diet and exercise plan can add years to your dog’s life, and life to his years.