We all love our dogs…that goes without saying. But many of us also have a deep seated fear of our beloved hounds getting old. It is a fact of life and it is something that will happen. The key, however, is being prepared, knowing how to look after your dog well to keep them active and happy and its about enjoying a slowing down dog too!
Health and Age
First of all, let’s look at ways we can look after, even our younger dogs, to help keep them “young” and enjoying life as long as possible. The key word here is enjoying, it is not about us it is about our dogs and if they are happy, we should be. There are a few simple things we can do to help keep our dogs happy and healthy.
Joint Care – Many breeds have inherent joint issues like labs for example. It can become very serious but even at low levels can make moving around less pleasant. It can be very helpful to use joint supplements from a younger age as a matter of habit. Keep using them as directed throughout the dogs life and you may well help your dog enjoy moving around for longer.
General Supplements – this can be very confusing. There are thousands of different ones out there and so much unqualified advice. Supplements like turmeric and cider vinegar may well be helpful and they are easy to give to a dog with food. It is often worth speaking to other owners of the same breed you have and see what they think works. Ideally speak to someone with a dog that is older than yours and compare how active they are. Be careful not to get caught up spending a fortune each week on silly amounts of supplements but do consider some.
Diet – diet is broken into two parts. The first is simple; do not over feed your dog. Nothing shortens a dogs’ life quite like over feeding. So listen to your vet about target weights and don’t get caught out by those begging eyes after tip bits. The second part of diet is the quality of the food you feed your dog. Just like humans, dogs can eat bad and good food and it has an effect. The movement to raw food is a very positive one, good quality raw food can have a wide array of vitamins and minerals in them as well as meat that is better for dogs to consume. It can be more expensive so a mix could be a compromise but ultra-cheap tinned food as the only source of nutrients may not be the best road to a happy older dog. It is very important to understand however, raw food has some issues too. In terms of humans raw dog food can have more bacteria and should be served with that in mind. Making your own raw food is not recommended for a number of reasons. Cheap raw dog food may not meet the right standards so if you are unsure speak to your vet.
Aging dogs can be a wonderful experience. Remember when your young dog wanted to play ball all day and would walk forever even though you were shattered? Well as your dog ages you will find it enjoys sleeping more and cuddling up more! this means you get some more time to yourself but also some more time with your dog in a different way. While a long walk is always fun so is curling up on the sofa with your furry buddy while they have a lovely big sleep, and you enjoy a movie on a cold winters day. The key is to embrace the change, enjoy the fact your dog looks so happy upside down in their bed fast asleep for what seems like most of the day.
One very important aspect of caring for an aging dog is not to pressure them. As they slow down you will need to slow down too. Don’t drag them on a massive walk when they clearly don’t want to. You will know as they slow down so don’t force them. Do, however, keep them active so you must find the balance between a gentle nudge and forcing your dog forward when it is tired. You may need to start lifting them into the car and that is fine. Don’t make them jump down if they whimper when they land, help them! It is important to not pressure your dog and let them show you what they can do…that way you know they are happy and you will be too.
Remember to value your dog, cherish every moment even if its different from how they were 5 years ago. Embrace the aging process, give them a big cuddle and smile as they fall asleep…again!