Life with your older dog

Whether you’ve decided to adopt an older dog, or your own dog has reached middle-age, there are certain things you must do to care properly for them. Here are some of our top tips for caring for an older dog.

When a dog reaches middle or old age, you can expect to see various physical and behavioural changes in them. You may have to make some changes to your routine and your relationship to your dog to care for them effectively as they age.

 

How do you know when your dog’s reached middle-age?

Dogs have generally reached middle-age at seven years old, though it depends largely on the breed. Bigger breeds, such as Bernese Mountain Dogs, age much faster than smaller breeds like terriers.

You’ll notice certain changes in your dog which suggests they’re nearing old age. Physical changes may include weight gain and sluggishness, greying hair, particularly around the face, or shortness of breath.

You might also notice behavioural differences, such as neediness, grumpiness or, most commonly, a lack of energy.

 

Your relationship with your ageing dog

As your dog gets older they’ll likely have less energy to go on long or frequent walks. This’ll mean a change in your schedule. Where before you had two long walks a day pencilled in, you may have to reduce this to one longer walk and one shortened walk per day, or two short walks.

While your dog doesn’t need or want as much physical exercise as before, that doesn’t mean they want any less quality time with you. Replace the time you’d have spent walking with some snuggle time in front of the TV. It’s essential that they feel safe, secure and loved as they approach old age.

 

Dietary changes with an elderly dog

Because your dog is moving more slowly and doing less exercise that they used to, this should be reflected in their dietary habits. You’ll need to:

  • Feed them at regular and frequent intervals but keep the quantity smaller than before.  
  • Choose foods specifically geared towards older dogs, to help reduce the risk of diseases linked with old age. Ask your vet which foods would best suit your dog. 
  • Speak to your vet about increasing your dog’s vitamin intake. Older dogs often need a boost in fatty acids such as DHA and EPA to help with symptoms of arthritis and to improve cognitive function.

 

Adopting an older dog

If you’ve decided to adopt an older dog from an animal shelter, you’ll be giving an animal a chance to live out their life comfortably and happily.

It can be very rewarding but adopting a new dog can be challenging too, especially when they’re older and have already developed their personality and certain behaviours.

Speak with the animal shelter staff about your dog’s specific needs, and make sure you’re fully ready to take on the potential medical implications that come with an older pet.

Older dogs need more regular boosters for vaccinations as well as general check-ups with the vet to make sure they’re as healthy and comfortable as possible.

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