Older Dogs and Their Diets

Our pets are living much longer than they did 30 years ago. There are many factors that contribute to this, such as betterRelaxation time with your senior dog veterinary care, the fact that most of our animals are now inside and the fact that we know so much more than we used to about their nutrition.

The number one fact is that our pets have moved from the backyard into our living rooms. They are now such an intricate part of our lives; we take them to the park, we play with them while we watch TV and we see the changes that happen as they are aging and want to keep them comfortable and happy.

Dogs and cats are no longer animals that live outside to keep away pests and vermin. They are now truly members of our families and become even more so as our two-legged children grow up and go away to college. As we see our pets starting to age, we are concerned. We want to keep them active and part of our lives. One of the ways we can do Senior cats need special attentionthis is by better nutrition. As we age, our nutritional needs change and our dogs are no different. Each dog is different as well and we as dog owners have to make decisions about their diet. So where do we go, as pet parents, to get the information that we need to make sure our dog’s needs are being met? There are so many differences between breeds: small breeds, large breeds and giant breeds. There also differences between each dog. How do we, as pet parents, adjust their food and nutrition needs?

The first thing you should do is answer a couple of questions:

  • How active is your dog? Just like people, each dog is different. Some dogs will become lazy or inactive as early as three or four years old while other dogs will remain active past 10 years, so you have to look at your dog to make that decision. Is he or she high, medium or low activity?
  • Is your dog experiencing any discomfort? I have a dog that is 15 years old, I would still rate her as medium activity. However when she first gets up and starts to move you can see the stiffness in her back legs. She doesn’t have the strength that she used to have in her hind quarters, but she can walk 3 miles if the terrain is flat. I exercise her more often, but not as long.
  • Is your dog overweight? As they age, many dogs develop a weight problem, just as many people do. Take a good look at your dog; is she on the pudgy side? Are you willing to increase her exercise or do you need to adjust her diet to help take care of some of those pounds? Be honest with yourself, if you’re not willing to increase the exercise, then you must cut the number of the calories. A note of warning here: so many of the foods that are considered lite on calories actually cut nutrients and use fillers that are high carb. I would rather see you use vegetables to increase the bulk but keep the nutrients still on a high level. One more note on vegetables, if you are using canned vegetables make sure you are using low sodium vegetables.
  • Is he or she showing any other problems of aging? Incontinence, pain, loss of hearing, loss of eyesight and irritability may or may not be able to be controlled with nutrition, but the first thing to remember is to provide a dog the best food that you can afford. Do not trust the labels alone, food manufacturers have learned to disguise labels when the food is really not as good as they would like you to think. I hate to say this but also do not rely on your veterinarian. Though your vet is a wonderful resource for many things, you need to do your own homework on nutrition. After you have done your own research, have a conversation with your veterinarian and see if he or she has a problem with what foods you have decided on.
  • Keep it simple. Natural additives can sometimes be the best. There are many drugs that can help with arthritis but there are also natural additives that you could use such as fish oil, flaxseed oil and fresh salmon. If you keep to natural ingredients you don’t have as many worry to the side effects.
  • Think outside the box. Again, you don’t always have to put your dog on a chemical medication to relieve arthritis pain. Look into acupuncture, massage, and exercise. In my mind medication should be the last thing that you turn to in keeping your pet pain free.

These questions are really good idea at any stage of your dog’s life, not just seniors. Whenever you realize that your dog is going into another stage of life these are just a few basic questions you need to go back to review. A couple of other things that you need to take into consideration are how much time you want to take preparing food and exercising your dog.

With the Internet there is an endless source of really good information on nutrition for your pet whether it be a dog or cat. However as you search the Internet for information there is one thing I’d like to warn you about. You need to look out for who is sponsoring each website. One of the red flags that I look for is if there are food manufacturing companies sponsoring the website. I always look for a website that does not accept advertisements from the manufacturers. Just don’t get taken in by a flashy website a lot of propaganda. Some of the large manufacturers have wonderful commercials that would lead you to think that they love your pet as much as you do, but after you do your research you may find that where they buy their products would give you nightmares.

As your pet ages you will need to make adjustments to his food depending on how your individual dog is doing. Be very careful if your dog is overweight and you’re looking to get a lite dog food. Many of the well-respected manufacturers of dog food have introduced specialized dog foods, like foods for seniors or for overweight pets, and a lot of these foods are lacking in the nutrients that any dog needs for a healthy life. Do your homework; it takes a lot of time but is well worth it. We want to keep our pets with us for as many years as we can and we want them to be healthy and an active part of our overweight puglives. Please remember I am not a veterinarian or an animal nutritionist; you have to do your own homework and then team up with your veterinarian to make the right choices for your pet.

Stay healthy, and have fun.

Keep Your Dog’s Feet Healthy

When I first saw my older dog Suzie lose her footing on the hardwood floors and fall, it not only broke my heart, it also scared me. I knew I was going to have to make some changes around the house to both keep her safe and keep her interacting with the family. After taking a close look at Suzie I noticed that her nails were very long.

When Suzie was young and active she wore down her nails with everyday activity and nail trimming was a monthly chore. Now that she’s not as active I have to do it weekly. Because Suzie has always been a very high strung Border Collie (you might even call her a little unstable) I always muzzle her before I trim her nails. Suzie is one of those dogs that when you put a muzzle on her she just relaxes. She knows that she has to submit to whatever I’m going to do. I have also found that using a Dremel makes fast work of nail trimming.

Dr. Debra Primvic writes in her article How to Trim Your Dogs Nails with a Nail Grinder or Dremel Tool:

“Dog’s nails continue to grow and trimming them can be a challenge for some dog owners. This depends on the dog, his personality and the dog owner’s ability to trim the nails.”

While taking care of Suzie’s nails I also keep the hair that grows between the pads of her feet trimmed. This helps keep her footing more stable when walking on the hardwood floors in my house.

If you have an older dog and you see that they are frightened of walking or very cautious of walking on slick surfaces, take a look at their feet to see if their nails are too long or if they have long hair in between the pads of their feet.  Both of these can be easily maintained and will help keep your dog safe. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this maintenance on your own, just have your groomer do it. It is well worth the time and effort.

Have fun and be safe!

Five Tips to Keep Your Senior Dog Happy and Healthy

  1. Establish a relationship with a veterinarian that is like-minded. Finding a veterinarian who understands your beliefs and will respect them is very important. In my case I do not believe in all of the vaccines that we give our pets, especially as they get older. I rely heavily on nutrition and exercise. I am very interested in alternative types of treatments such as acupuncture and herbal remedies. In my case, it is very important to me to have a veterinarian that is open-minded. One who will listen to the research that I have done, who keeps updated on new and alternative treatments and can help me make a decision.
  2. Feed your senior dog the best food you can afford. One really good website that I use is Dog Food Advisor, but don’t stop there. Don’t believe the commercials; do your research and then talk with your veterinarian. I have found feeding my dogs (no matter the age) my cost a little more, but I make up for what I spend on food with less trips to the vet.
  3. Don’t over feed your dog, especially as they age. Obesity will create health problems and shorten their life. Overweight dogs will be more susceptible to heart disease, joint problems, arthritis and diabetes.
  4. Give your senior dog adequate exercise, but adjust it to her changing abilities.
  5. Be diligent in grooming to control fleas and ticks. Keep nails clipped and teeth brushed. Bathe and brush your dog regularly.

Happy healthy senior dog