Health series – Elderly dogs

Care of the Elderly Dog
Dogs may live to a grand old age.  However, the life expectancy of a dog varies considerably according to the breed, with giant breeds usually living 8-10 years, and smaller breeds up to 14-16 years.   Longevity may be to some extent hereditary, but it is also dependent on the care received throughout the animal’s life and the quality of nutrition received.

Effects of ageing
The older dog makes a great companion even though they might have special requirements.  You might notice grey hairs especially around the muzzle along with a less glossy and dense coat.  Just like people when they age their hearing may become impaired and their eyesight may deteriorate.  Walks may take longer as the dog slows down with age.  Some dogs may become confused and irritable whereas others may become restless.

General health care
As your dog ages you will need to adapt your care accordingly.

Older dogs are less agile and therefore may not be able to fully groom themselves so you might need to groom him/her more often.  This is a good opportunity to examine your dog for any skin growths or unusual swellings which might need to be checked by your vet.  You may also need to clean any discharge from the eyes more frequently.

Just like elderly people the older dog is prone to joint problems.  This can cause stiffness especially when getting up from lying down and walks will take longer.  It is important to have any joint problems examined by your vet so that appropriate treatment and pain relief can be given.  Senior dogs may benefit from thicker and softer beds to help ease the discomfort of arthritic joints.

Exercise is very important, especially for the older dog, as it provides many benefits to the heart, lungs and joints, helps to keep him/her fit and aids with bowel function.  It is important to know your dog’s capabilities and not to expect too much and a couple or more shorter walks every day may be better than one longer walk.  However, you might need to speak to your vet before changing your older dog’s exercise regime.

If you notice any unusual signs such as your dog stopping to get his breath when out for a walk and coughing do not just put this down to the ageing process as there might be a medical reason for this  such as a cardiac problem and you will need to have your dog checked by a vet.

Keep an eye on your dog’s weight.  As dog’s age they become less active and use less energy and require fewer calories.  They are more likely to gain weight so it’s important to regularly check that you can feel your dog’s ribs easily and they do not have a large covering of fat and you can also see your dog’s waist.  It’s very important that older dogs are not overweight as this can put extra strain on arthritic joints and makes it even more difficult for dogs to get up from lying down.  Overweight older dogs may also be more prone to developing conditions such as heart disease.

Make a note of any unusual behaviour.  Behavioural changes can be an indication of underlying problems.  For example, continual barking can be due to your dog’s loss of hearing, while bumping into things may be because your dog can’t see so well.

Any changes in eating and drinking must be checked by a vet as this might indicate underlying conditions such as kidney or liver disease.  It is not uncommon for dogs to have problems with their teeth or gums as they age so therefore, if your dog is reluctant to eat get him/her checked by your vet.

It is therefore very important to note any changes in your dog and not just put these signs down to ageing.  It is advisable to have your elderly dog checked regularly by your vet and also to feed an appropriate food for their age.

Diets for senior dogs
Diet always plays a major part in maintaining health and fitness.  Just like people, as your dog grows older his/her nutritional requirements change.  Dogs are less energetic as they get older so it is important not to overfeed your dog which would lead to weight gain.  Diets for senior dogs generally provide fewer calories and are easy to digest.  Dogs around 7 years old are considered as senior although this does vary with the breed of dog with giant breeds a little less and smaller breeds a little older than 7 years.

Naturediet Feel Good Senior Lite has been formulated for senior dogs and overweight dogs requiring fewer calories.  It is a highly digestible diet, lower in calories and contains a good source of natural fibre.  It contains all the vitamins and minerals your older dog needs for a healthy balanced diet.  Feel Good Senior Lite is made using the highest quality ingredients and without the use of artificial preservatives, colourings or flavourings.