As dogs mature and age, their body, diet, exercise requirements and even temerament will change just like ours do. Middle age for dogs begins at aound 7 years old for a medium sized dog although there are beed variations and bigger breeds age quicker than small.
Sleep Patterns change with age and elderly dogs often become restless at night and sleep less. They may also snooze more during the daytime. Leave them to rest and don’t call them to get up from their bed unless you need them to.
Muscles and bones weaken just like ours and the immune system is less efficient in old age. Supplements like glucosamine can help keep the joints supple and you can make small changes like elevating your dog’s food and water bowls to make meal times easier. Some elderly dogs find it hard to keep warm as they can’t regulate their body temperature as well as they used to so an upgrade to a thicker softer bed that will keep them nice and cosy. A coat when walking can help too.
An elderly dog’s skin can become dry and their coat more coarse. Coconut or salmon oil supplements with their food can help with this. Brush your dog more regularly which will also help you notice new lumps and bumps. Take care as the skin is thinner than it used to be.
The slowing metabolism causes weight gain so it’s important to adjust their diet accordingly and choose healthy treats. They may still want to eat as much as they used to, but they can’t burn off the calories. To test if your dog is overweight or not- you should be able to feel their ribs as you apply light pressure to their sides. There are special diets formulated for senior dogs and some that are tailored to specific medical conditions. Older dogs can also lose weight as their digestive system becomes less effective. If you can, weigh your dog every couple of months to track changes and check in with your vet if your dog has dropped weight.
An older dog won’t need as much exercise as they did when they were younger although some dogs will need to be restricted as they often want to do more than they can and end up sore the following day. Retire your ball flinger, keep exercise consistent each day and non strenuous. A ramp is helpful too for getting your dog in and out of the car to prevent jumping from a height. If your dog is walking less- keep an eye on their nails which can overgrow quickly and require more frequent trimmings.
A dog’s temperament may change too with age. Some older dogs still love to play with other dogs whereas others become less sociable or even a little grumpy. It’s understandable that a dog may become a little more protective of himself or grumpy if he is suffering deteriorating eye sight or hearing. Temperament changes could also be due to pain from arthritis or other medical conditions.
Noticing small changes in your dog will help improve their quality of life. Don’t stop giving them new toys or teaching them new commands. Mental stimulation and enriching activities go a long way to keep your elderly dog feeling young.