Change is an inevitable part of life, as all of us know. We are constantly in a state of transition and our pets are no different. The transition from puppy to adult dog is one thing, but the transition from an adult dog to a senior dog can be even more demanding and stressful.
So how do you handle the transition? How do you age gracefully alongside your dog? And what are some of the changes you can expect during this period of time?
Dogs age quite quickly and changes can occur before you might even realize.
Before you know it, your pooch might be looking aging in the face and may be veering through transitions with surprising speed.
The first and most apparent changes you’ll experience with your senior dog will likely relate to his or her activity level. Older dogs, like older people, generally don’t have as much energy as they used to. You may see diminished activity and diminished interest in activities as dogs have less energy resources.
Because of changes to your dog’s physicality and your dog’s energy level, you may also see changes to his or her appearance. Elder canines may put on more weight due to experiencing less activity. Metabolic changes can also result in weight gain and/or weight loss.
Your senior dog will also be more susceptible to diseases and illnesses, just like senior citizens. If you notice changes in his or her urination habits or excessive panting and/or barking, for instance, you may want to consider having your canine companion seen by your veterinarian.
Bad breath (outside of the norm, of course), difficulty moving, confusion, disorientation, skin and/or changes, and so on are other changes you want to keep an eye on. For helpful advice in this area, review our page on common illnesses affecting senior dogs.
How You Can Help
There are a number of ways that you can help your dog transition from adulthood to senior dog territory while respecting his or her dignity and aging honorably alongside your pal. I share a list of products that I find extremely helpful for aging dogs. You can find a link in the right hand column on this site.
DIET — DIET — DIET
One of the ways you can help is to adapt his or her diet. Always feed your old friend a high quality food that includes a moderate amount of protein, but NOT LESS or LOW PROTEIN. Don’t buy into that rumor that older dogs need less protein, it’s not true!
I’m crazy about the dehydrated and freeze dried diets for older dogs. Add warm water and you have a homemade meal for your dog; plus it’s nice and soft for those with oral issues. When you feed a better diet, your dog will require less food and this cuts back on calories. *Note: low grade kibble food causes dogs to gain weight because they DO NOT get the nutrition their body needs, and dry food is tougher on the kidneys and liver due to the lack of moisture.
So, consider switching to a better dog food. When feeding a formula like the ones I recommended above; there’s no need to switch to a geriatric diet. There is more nutritional value in high quality foods for the most part and, because older dogs require fewer calories, making dietary adjustments is one of the best lines of defense you have against the rigors of aging.
The Right Veterinarian
Another way to ease the transition is to ensure that your dog sees the veterinarian more often and I highly recommend that you look for a holistic vet in your area to help your dog get through the challenges of aging using the most natural methods possible.
A good holistic vet will walk you through the right diet, critical supplements, titer testing to avoid over vaccinating, natural pain control, and much more.
Upping the frequency of the visits is also a great way to ensure that none of the aforementioned changes slip through the cracks without being properly examined.
Adjust your schedule to meet your dog’s changing routines where possible. Your dog will have more needs as he or she ages; he or she will require more exercise and more bathroom trips, so these will need to be worked into a more comprehensive routine that you can adjust as time goes by.