For owners

5 Ways To Keep Your Senior Dog Happy & Healthy

5 Ways To Keep Your Senior Dog Happy & Healthy

Author Bio: Olivia De Santos is an animal lover, professional writer for Gentle Dog Trainers Australia and canine care video content creator. She loves spending time with her senior dogs Blue & Pip and writing pieces to help people become better dog owners.

Having a senior dog at home is one of the greatest joys. It is so rewarding to nurture your older dog in their twilight years whether you’ve just adopted a senior pup, or raised them from puppyhood. However, it would be unfair to pretend that caring for an older dog is plain sailing. Senior dogs have many considerations that are rarely spoken about. Well, we’re going to talk about them today! Here is a quick guide on how to keep your dog happy and healthy as they age.

Disclaimer: Not all dogs age the same. In fact, I have two old dogs that have completely different ways of being now that they are over 10 years old. These tips are meant to be applied generally but always have your individual dog’s needs at the forefront as you read on.

1. Optimise your dogs nutrition

To ensure that your dog has the best possible experience as they age, good quality dog food is essential. Ideally, you should be feeding your dog high-quality dog food from puppyhood and throughout their lives, but arguably, it’s most important in later life. Dogs can develop food sensitivities and stomach upsets in their old age so you need to be mindful of what you feed your pup. 

We recommend that you feed your dog the highest quality food you can afford. Manufacturers often have special senior dog food formulas” that have extra beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Bonus tip: Seek out dog food brands that have the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) seal. This will ensure a base level of quality.

2. Consider adding supplements to your dog’s diet

Just like humans, dogs could do with an extra nutritional boost from supplements later in life. Luckily there is a huge array of supplements for dogs on the market. Here is a short list of supplements you can consider for your pooch:

  • Green-lipped mussel powder - eases arthritis
  • Vitamin C and/or E - good for nurturing the brain in old age
  • Fish oil with omega-3 - helps with joint inflammation
  • MCT oils - helps with memory function

Note: Never feed your dog human supplements. Always seek out dog-safe formulas. Dogs can have huge reactions to compounds often found in our foods and supplements. For example, xylitol is found in some gummy supplements for humans as a sweetener. Xylitol is toxic to dogs. Beware!

3. Learn about Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS)

Doggy dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is a common affliction for many older dogs. It can be difficult for you as an owner to adapt your care when your dog’s mental capacities are becoming unpredictable and unsettling. Speaking from personal experience, physical ailments seem easier to navigate as they have a clear treatment path and medication. CCDS has neither.

To give you a basic overview, here are some of the early signs your dog could be developing doggy dementia:

  • They pace at night and howl
  • They show signs of anxiety during the day and night at sudden unorthodox times
  • They appear forgetful or confused
  • They lick themselves, walls or objects repeatedly and mindlessly
  • They have a decreased appetite
  • They start peeing or pooping in the house
  • They appear irritable or suffer from mood swings

Though it sounds scary, CCDS is manageable if you take the proper precautions. The supplements mentioned in tip 2 can also help keep your dog’s mind clearer for longer.

4. Make regular appointments at the vet

It may not be your dog’s favourite thing, but going to the vet often is essential for catching any potential ailments or issues before they take hold. If you catch tumours early then you can prevent early death due to cancer. If you have your dog’s eyes checked, you can preempt early blindness or sight issues due to cataracts.

We recommend you book your dog in for a check-up every two months. If that’s not feasible, at least every quarter. Make it a habit when at the vet to schedule the next appointment on a continuous basis. It may seem over the top but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

5. Ensure that your dog still gets daily exercise

As dogs get older, slower and lazier, we as owners tend to relax with their exercise regimen. While it’s true you need to adapt the way your dog exercises, it’s still important that they get some exercise every day or several times per week.

Some old dogs have good days and bad days. Don’t force your dog to do more than they physically can. If they can take a short walk around the block, encourage them to do so. If they can only walk 2 minutes to the end of the street, still take them. It’s important your dog has outings and exercise to keep them happy and healthy.

Conclusion: Help your senior dog enjoy their twilight years

Your dog may be old but they are still the same pup they used to be. They’re still inquisitive, excitable, joyful and fun. The key to having a happy and healthy senior dog is to adapt their care but still help them enjoy life. Play with them. Feed them well. Take them on fun walks and be mindful of their physical and mental health. Cover those simple bases and you’ll have a thriving old dog!