Senior Dog Care: How to Help Your Best Friend Mature Gracefully
As our dogs mature, they often become more confident companions. They know the routine, what is expected of them, and they are more easy-going and settled in general. As dogs age, they do have some physical changes on the inside that often start before you begin to see changes on the outside. Here are a few ways you can care for your senior dog and help your four-legged family member mature gracefully.
When is My Dog Considered a Senior?
Determining when your dog is a senior mainly depends on your dog’s size and breed. However, each individual dog’s senior status will have a lot to do with his overall health and activity level over the years.
Smaller dogs can typically live up to twice as long as a large breed dog. Larger dogs can enter their “golden” years as early as age 6– smaller dogs may not become seniors until they are 9. Regardless of when they mature, all dogs are subject to changes associated with age – a slowing metabolism and body composition changes. Some of these changes can be managed through diet and activity level.
What Kind of Food Should I Feed My Senior Dog?
As your furry friend ages, there are important considerations for your dog’s breed and health that require special nutritional care. Here’s what you should keep in mind when feeding your senior dog.
There are a wide variety of “senior” dog foods on the shelf today, but truly understanding what ingredients and nutrients are within your senior dog’s food, is a great place to start. A senior dog food, like Bil-Jac Senior Select or Bil-Jac Small Breed Senior, can ensure your dog receives several nutritional benefits such as:
- High-quality protein to supply essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which help support muscle mass and key body functions such as the immune system
- Controlled levels of fat and protein to help support a mature, active lifestyle
- Gentle fiber blend to help support healthy digestion
- Naturally-sourced Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids to help maintain brain, skin, and joint health
If your senior dog is more than 10 percent overweight, feeding a food with lower fat ingredients, such as Bil-Jac Reduced Fat, can help manage his weight while maintaining a beautiful coat and muscle tone.
Easy to Chew
Aging dogs may have a harder time eating food if their dental health deteriorates. To help diminish stress around mealtime, try a dry dog food kibble that is easy to chew. Both Bil-Jac Small Breed Senior and Senior Select have “easy to chew” bites that will help ensure your dog is still provided with the balanced diet he needs as a senior, while making it easy to eat.
Some dog’s appetite can diminish with age, so it’s important to feed your dog a food they like to eat. If you begin to experience a lack of appetite with your pooch, it’s also important not to add people food to your dog’s diet to entice them to eat. This will throw your dog’s diet off balance and can lead to more finicky eating-habits in the future.
Your dog’s breed can determine which senior dog food is best for him. If you have a small breed dog (weighs in around 20 lbs. or less), your dog already has special nutritional needs that pet parents should continue to take into consideration as your small breed ages. Special food, such as Bil-Jac Small Breed Senior Dog Food, can help support the lifelong health of your small dog by tailoring nutrition exactly to what a small breed senior needs. If your dog is over 20 lbs., Bil-Jac Senior Select, with naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, would be an appropriate recipe to feed.
What Other Care Does My Senior Dog Need?
Feeding your best friend is a crucial way to make an impact on his overall nutrition, but there are also many other ways you can support your senior dog’s health. Here are a few additional ways you can show extra love and care to your senior dog.
Joint Health and Support
As your favorite four-legged pal gets older, you may notice he is slowing down during normal activities and his joints may not be able to keep up at the same pace when he was a pup. Often pet parents assume slow movement as dog’s age is inevitable, but your dog really may benefit from joint health support.
If you notice your dog struggling to walk up the steps, rising slowly out of bed, or unable to play as long as he used to, you might want to consider adding a product formulated specially to support joint health and immune function, like Bil-Jac BreakThru® Joint Health. BreakThru Joint Health can help support the health of your dog’s maturing joints while providing calcium, vitamin D, and protein for healthy joint and musculoskeletal function.
Frequent exercise should still be part of your dog’s routine, although intensity and duration will diminish as your dog continues to mature. Maintaining an exercise schedule helps to prevent obesity, support muscle tone, and improve overall mobility. Adjusting how much food you feed each day will go hand in hand with exercise and conditioning.
Avoid Stressful Situations if Possible
Stressful situations and abrupt changes to your senior dog’s daily routine should be avoided if possible, as many dogs may not handle adjustments to lifestyle well. If a significant change does need to be made, try to introduce it gradually over time.
Some dogs lose weight as they age, rather than gain it. Regular visits to your veterinarian are a must for senior dogs, and weight loss should be evaluated by your veterinarian to see if it signifies an underlying issue. Some veterinarians even offer diagnostic tests to monitor your mature dog’s health status.
As your best friend matures, there may be some simple things you can do to help him adjust to some of the changes he may experience. Jumping on the couch or the bed may be more of a challenge, so a set of soft stairs could be a helpful item to use. Assisting him in and out of the car might be something to consider, thereby helping with safety. Even a small thing like a thicker, softer bed to cuddle up on could be a much appreciated gift for your senior dog.
All in all, love and care are two of the most important things your best friend needs. You may not be able to do the same activities together, but your senior dog still needs your attention and affection. You’ve been through a lot together and giving your furball extra love as he enters his golden years is a wonderful way to keep your bond happy and healthy for years to come.
Your dog’s care and nutrition are important at every stage of life. For more nutritional information, special training tips, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac products, Join the Best Friends Club today.