Our furry friends are more like family than just mates, and it pains us terribly when they age – sometimes ungracefully.
Tim Norris, dog healer and founder of canine myofunctional therapy (canine massage), acupuncture and dog rehabilitation service Both Ends of The Lead walks us through how to care for an older dog to guarantee them a long and pain-free life.
1. Do not overfeed your dog
This can lead to heart disease and joint problems. Feed your dog a nutritious diet to keep them at a healthy weight.
These are two ways you can do a ‘self-check’ on your dog to see if they are not overweight.
1. Stand so that you have a view of your dog from above or over them. You should see there is an obvious waistline just behind their ribcage.
2. If you are unsure, run your hands lightly down the side of your dog’s body and you should be able to feel their ribs.
If you are still not sure if you are overfeeding your dog after doing the checks, then you should speak to your vet and get their advice.
There are many variables that determine how much to feed your dog. If you feed them a kibble diet, then the recommended amount to feed is usually stated on the packaging.
If you have bought your food from your local vet, then they will normally recommend how much to feed specifically for your dog.
We are now starting to see more people feeding a natural raw diet to their dog.
If you do decide this suits your dog better, it’s recommended you seek out a certified animal nutritionist to guide you on how much to feed and also how to balance the meals appropriately for your dog specifically.
As your dog ages and becomes less active (just like people), it’s likely you will need to feed them a little less, otherwise you risk a range of joint issues like arthritis through overfeeding.
If you have a dog that appears underweight, then it is advisable to check with your vet to see if there are any conditions your dog may have that is stopping them from putting on weight.
Most pet food brands have a senior range, which will usually include more omega 3, 6 and 9 for bones and joints. Try these ideas on how to care for an ageing pet.
2. Don't exercise your dog too much or too little
Many breeds of dogs are classed as a senior dog once they reach seven years of age, so it’s important to adapt the way you exercise them to minimise the impact on their joints and help them age more safely.
High intensity chase games like throwing a ball can increase the risk of injury and joint problems like arthritis for senior dogs.
The jumping, twisting and turning can put a great deal of excess strain on an older dog’s body and although many senior dogs will still enjoy chasing a ball, you should consider if this really is the most appropriate and safest way to exercise a senior dog.
3. If your dog is old, don't throw a ball too much
If you do still throw a ball for your senior dog, it’s good to spend at least five minutes warming up their muscles first.
This can help reduce the risk of an injury for them.
You can do this by just letting them walk at their normal speed until they are warmed up and then throw the ball along the ground, so there is no jumping or twisting for them.
If you ever see your dog uncomfortable or slowing down when chasing the ball, this is a good time to stop.
If they are sore after chasing a ball or stiff the next day, then it would be wise to stop throwing the ball for them and find a different way to exercise them.