Senior dogs have different needs than their puppy counterparts. A senior dog is considered any dog older than six or seven years old (large dogs tend to age faster than smaller dogs). Just like humans, this stage of life can be difficult for some dogs while other dogs retain their puppylike energy well into adulthood. If you’re planning on adopting a senior dog, here are some things you should consider to keep them happy and healthy:
Diet is important.
As your dog gets older, they will likely have the same appetite they’ve always had, but they’ll physically require less food. Their metabolism will slow and it becomes far more difficult to keep them at a healthy weight. That’s why diet is key. You don’t need to buy into marketing gimmicks by buying your dog “senior formula” food. Instead, focus on minimally processed, high quality foods. Highly processed kibbles contribute to chronic inflammation and degenerative disease. Likewise, supplements are a good idea for an aging dog. Check out our blog post of 5 Supplements to Keep Your Dog Healthy at any age!
Be aware of common breed issues.
Certain breeds are susceptible to genetic issues, and these genetic issues tend to crop up later in life so it’s especially important to maintain regular vet checks to keep an eye on everything. For example, retrievers, Boxers, German Shepherds, and several other large breeds are prone to cancers. Bull dogs, pugs, and other short-snouted dogs are prone to brachycephalic issues. An annual blood panel is probably a good idea as a reference for comparison from year to year.
Don’t neglect exercise.
Your senior dog may be older and slower, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need exercise. Arthritis and cognitive decline worsen with a sedentary lifestyle. Your dog should still get daily walks and plenty of mental stimulation, albeit at their own pace. Don’t expect your senior dog to move at the same speed as a puppy, but even a gentle, short walk a couple of times per day is helpful to get adequate exercise and some socialization. Keep in mind that with limited mobility, you may have to help your dog with certain tasks such as moving up the stairs or onto your bed. A ramp can be helpful if your dog has back issues or is unable to jump anymore.
Give them time to acclimate.
Senior dogs aren’t as malleable as puppies; they’ve grown into their personalities and can be set in their ways. In many ways, this is a joy, as it means they already have basic training and you know what to expect from them. But that doesn’t mean they won’t need time to adjust to their new environment if you’re bringing them into your home as a senior dog. Give your new best friend plenty of love, but also make sure that your dog has its own space if it needs time to itself. This is doubly important if you already have another dog in the household. Remember that a senior dog might not be able to defend itself as easily as a younger dog, so carefully monitor interactions between your senior dog and other dogs in the household.