Youth is synonymous with health. We all know that with age comes change, and a certain level of deterioration to our overall health. Whether that be physical change, such as weaker bones and less muscle mass, or mental change, dogs experience it too!
There are things, however, that you can do to make their lives easier as they get older, and even help give them back some of their youth. Some of these things can be really fun, too, so you can both have a whale of a time while retaining some youthful vitality!
Getting older can be a strain on your pup – age means they will function slower, and be less willing to do strenuous activity. Less activity means putting on unwanted weight, leading to a deterioration in joint health, a slower metabolism and risks of heart troubles.
Don’t expect your pooch to be running around as much as they may have when they were younger, but also don’t let them be idle. Forcing your senior dog to do rigorous exercise may actually cause more harm than good. If you notice they have stiff movements or are struggling to move around, this could indicate that they are doing too much. Find the right balance. Give them gentle exercise, such as short walks on flat ground, regular swims in safe water, and avoid steep inclines or long runs.
Exercise will help your pet's joints stay strong and mobile, and less prone to joint conditions like arthritis. Not only that, but regular exercise will sustain muscle mass and improve blood flow around the body, including to the brain! More oxygen to the brain will keep your pup alert, engaged and active too.
For more on how to deal with joint pain in older dogs, read our blog on the Ultimate Joint Care Guide For Elderly Dogs.
A dog at any age needs to have a good diet, full of nutrition and tastiness! But as we, and dogs, get older, our metabolisms slow down due to a decrease in muscle mass, so the amount of food they would have eaten a few years ago might cause more weight gain if eaten today. Eating too much can lead to obesity, which puts your dog at higher risk of further health problems, such as heart disease or arthritis.
Some things to bear in mind as you think about your dog’s diet.
Treats are great to give your pup when he’s been good, and of course we all want to see our pals happy! But overindulging them will inevitably lead to weight gain, and that can be extremely dangerous. Try swapping treats for healthy joint-health focussed supplements, which provide them with necessary nutrients while also being tasty. Maintaining a good weight for your dog will help them live longer and happier lives!
As humans, we’re encouraged to learn new skills or do puzzles as we get older, in order to keep the mind young. Well, it is exactly the same for dogs, too! Don't listen to the age-old saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks", because you can! Training together and teaching your dog new commands can be a great activity for you and your dog to do, and it will keep their attention-span and mind sharp.
The added benefits to the body are also worth knowing! If you decide to take your dog to a training school, or simply train them to do some tricks at home, it's likely that they'll be exercising muscles that they might otherwise not be. Consider the training as part of your efforts to keep them moving!
The reason most dogs respond well to performing tricks or following commands is the reward they get for doing it – this can be in the form of a treat, or if you intend on taking them out, reward them with a walk if they wait patiently on command before heading out the door. They can learn what works for you, and in turn, they’ll get what they want. A win for everyone!
Not only can dogs be challenged to new mental and physical exercises, but you and your dog will also bond when doing these activities. Encouraging them through physical interaction and an excited tone of voice is a way of showing them some love, so do plenty of it! The communication between the two of you and the time spent together is an invaluable bonding experience that will make them feel less lonely, and there’s nothing worse than knowing your ageing dog feels alone!
Your dog's mouth is extremely busy - chewing, barking, panting and eating. But this constant activity can lead to dental issues if you’re not careful! The main problem facing dogs’ dental health is gum disease, or gingivitis, when the gums become inflamed. It shows few symptoms (other than bad breath), and when they do show, it’s often too late to prevent it. Gum disease occurs in around 80% of dogs, so don’t ignore the problem! If your dog does begin to suffer, it can cause extreme pain for your dear pooch, and even make them prone to other health issues as they age.
A build-up of plaque will occur on the teeth if you aren't looking after your dog's dental hygiene, due to the bacteria from food, grass, and other objects. When there is a lot of plaque built up, the immune system kicks in, and sends in white blood cells, which release enzymes that attack the gum tissue. You can imagine that this can cause issues in the mouth, such as pain, tooth loss, and in worse cases, can infect other parts of the body!
Now, here’s how you can prevent it. Your veterinarian can usually spot when your dog is suffering from gum disease before you do, so don’t feel like you’ve let your pal down by not noticing it, it’s not easy!
What you CAN do is get into a good dental hygiene routine, by brushing their teeth regularly to rid of the nasty bacteria in their mouth and providing a tasty dental chew for them to gnaw away on everyday.
Don’t underestimate the power of play. Even though your dog is a bit older now, it doesn’t mean they don’t love to play! Maybe they have a toy from when they were younger that they love, which can provide them comfort and excitement? This is a great way to ignite their youthful spark again, and make them feel like a young pupper!
Try getting some interactive toys, too, such as puzzles or squeaky toys – they’ll keep your dog engaged, and you’ll be surprised how long they can be entertained for! And although they may not want to play a big game of fetch, remember to spend time with them outdoors. Giving your dog your time and energy is as important as anything else to keep him feeling young!
We know that keeping your senior dog feeling young and healthy is the best way to encourage vitality and longevity in their life. By adopting these ideas, you’ll be able to keep each other youthful, and with that you’ll surely have more fun in life!
Don’t let your dog’s golden years be dull, but don’t shock them by giving them a whole new lifestyle! Dogs are creatures of habit, so once you adjust their routine, stick to it, and they will adapt. Set a timetable to train or take them for walks at the same time every day (if you can). There are no rules, but remember, no dog is too old to learn new tricks!