As our dogs get older, ensuring that we help them live the happiest and healthiest lives is more important than ever. In this blog, our Freshpet veterinarian, Dr. Aziza, shares her healthiest lifestyle habits and answers some of your most frequently asked questions about elderly dogs.
What types of health problems will my elderly dog encounter?
As the dog gets older, many diseases may appear. Some of the most common ones include:
- Osteoarthritis: This is an irreversible disease that can cause joint inflammation. Older dogs with osteoarthritis often show signs of stiffness and have difficulty moving around, and many pet parents describe them as generally "slowing down."
- Periodontal disease: Older dogs who do not receive consistent dental care throughout their lives will show signs of serious dental disease. Such symptoms may include severe bad breath, pain when touching around the mouth, aggression due to pain, weight loss due to painful food chewing, and picky eating.
- Metabolic diseases: Older dogs may begin to experience many metabolic diseases, including diabetes, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease. Most of these diseases can be detected by routine blood tests performed during your dog's annual health check, which increases the importance of this appointment when your pet is old. Fortunately, if caught early, most metabolic diseases are treatable and can be treated at home.
- Internal organ diseases: As pets age, we begin to see signs of stress or damage to some internal organs (such as kidneys or liver). Fortunately, after consulting with your veterinarian, some of the damage can be controlled through dietary changes, nutritional supplements, and supplements.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to determining the age at which your dog is considered "old." This is because it is closely related to their breeds. Compared with small and medium breeds, large breeds usually have a shorter lifespan.
Because of such large differences between breeds, veterinarians usually recommend annual blood tests and physical examinations every six months when the dog is 7 years old. This allows them to screen for diseases that tend to occur later in the pet's life, such as the diseases we listed above. The sooner they are found, the sooner we can start treating them, resulting in better prognosis or long-term results.
How much exercise should my senior dog be able to withstand every day?
There are two key factors that determine the amount of exercise that older dogs can withstand:
- Varieties: Some varieties are very active, while others like to be couch potatoes. The size of the breed also plays an important role-for example, toy breeds can benefit greatly from walking a few blocks, unlike the Labrador Retriever, which may require walking for several miles.
- Potential health problems: If an older dog has underlying diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, heartworm infection, obesity, or even osteoarthritis, then exercise will be more difficult for them.
- Try to encourage your dog to exercise as much as possible without putting too much pressure on their body. If you find that your dog is struggling with the different exercises you are trying, please discuss other exercises with your veterinarian. We are fortunate to live in an era where elderly pets are provided with a variety of fun and exciting exercise options, such as underwater treadmills, so that they can safely stay active.
I recommend feeding elderly dogs two balanced and nutritious meals a day to support their aging body. Healthy dog food recipes like Freshpet are very suitable for elderly dogs because they are made from high-quality fresh fruits, vegetables and protein, and are gently steamed to lock in important nutrients. Compared with kibbles, this makes the meal more similar to a family-cooked diet.
Should I change the diet of my elderly dog or introduce any type of supplements?
The nutritional needs of older dogs and puppies may be different, which is why I often recommend joint supplements, especially if they show signs of osteoarthritis. If you are concerned about weight management, dry skin, or even a sensitive stomach, a balanced diet like Freshpet is a good choice. As I mentioned before, each recipe is made with fresh, complete ingredients, making it the best dog food for advanced pets dealing with these common problems.
How much sleep should my senior dog sleep every day?
Dogs like to take naps. Generally speaking, older dogs sleep more than younger dogs. After a particularly active day, you may notice that they sleep a little longer than usual, which is okay. However, if you notice that your dog is sleeping all day, this may be a warning sign of potential health problems. If you are worried that your old dog sleeps too much, please make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any potential health problems.
How can I maintain the mental health of my elderly dog?
In addition to your pet's physical health, it is important that you pay attention to their mental health as they grow older. A good way to maintain the mental health of elderly dogs is to carry out continuous enrichment and activities to keep their thinking active. Encourage your dog to play with toys independently, interact with family and friends throughout the day, and exercise through games.
It is also important to have good eating habits to support their cognitive and physical health. Freshpet salmon recipe is an important source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which help promote brain health.
We hope you can incorporate some of Dr. Aziza’s skills into your dog’s daily activities so that they can enjoy their golden years.