For many of us, our four legged friends bring years of joy to our lives but it our responsibility to make those years as joyful and comfortable for them in return. While we have to accept aging as a natural, normal process, we don’t have to accept our dog suffering from any discomfort or pain as he enters his golden age.
So how old is old?
Age is relative and the term “senior” can describe any aging pet, but the number of years considered to be “senior” varies. Other identifiers like the state of their organs and their breed can also help determine if your dog has reached old age. In general, the giant breed dogs age quicker than the large/medium breed dogs, which again, age much faster than the smaller breed dogs. In most cases, dogs can be considered “senior” between five and ten years old. What are the age-old signs?
Dogs age in much the same way we do. We begin to grey just as they grey (around the muzzle, on the chest, on top of the
head). They become a little less active and playful as they used to be. They can have jutting hip bones, impaired sight and/or loss of hearing, wasting muscle and generally just begin to lose that spring in their step. But much like us, dogs can avoid a taxing aging process with the help of their owners (you) applying a little extra care and attention in their earlier stages of life. How? Just like we do:
The canine digestive system is designed to digest a raw species appropriate diet and although there is much conflicting information out there about what to feed and not feed your dog and no two dog owners seem to agree as to which dog food is “the best”, a balanced, natural diet will do no harm to your old pal. Obesity - Metabolism slows as animals age (a concept that most humans are also familiar with!), which contributes to weight gain and, in extreme cases, obesity. Choosing foods lower in calories and high in healthy fiber is ideal. Owners who start their pets on raw dog food diets often find that weight management becomes much easier.
Dentistry - Over the years, teeth – even the strongest – wear down, age and can occasionally fall out. Kibble, which is a problematic food choice for a number of reasons, can be extremely difficult for older dogs to chew. Opting for a softer, more chewable choice is much kinder to your dog’s teeth; but be aware that canned soft foods, which are highly processed and nutrient-poor, are an inferior choice to raw feeding.
Protein - It is important to feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain good muscle mass. Dogs are meat eaters; that's how Nature made them! Although classed as omnivores, able to survive on a diet of either plant or animal origin if it is balanced and diverse, in order to thrive and not merely survive, dogs should have a source of animal protein -- MEAT!
Vegetables & Fibre - Just like your mother told you to eat your vegetables, you must make sure your dog does too. Leafy veggies resemble grasses and other greens that wild prey eat and are vitamin powerhouses, full of antioxidants and minerals. Some senior dogs also have trouble with constipation and green vegetables possess cleansing and pH balancing properties as well as being an excellent source of fibre. Good examples are lettuces, dandelion leaves, parsley, cilantro, basil, beet tops, carrot tops, kale, sprouted seeds etc. One of the reasons why some dogs refuse to eat vegetables is because in natural settings, wild canines eat plant material pre-digested. So when you prepare your dogs veggies, use a food processor or a juicer to “predigest” or puree them.
2. Arthritis vs Stiffness
Before we discuss ways to keep your senior dog mobile, it is important to learn the difference between Arthritis and general stiffness. It is a common misconception for many dog owners to assume their dog has arthritis when they notice signs of their beloved pup having difficulty getting up with his hind end trembling. This is because on the outside, stiffness and arthritis look very much the same. Stiffness is caused by muscle shortening that can be related to a bad diet, toxicity, deficiencies, excessive intense exercise, injuries or lack of stretching. Stiff dogs often have perfectly normal joints, even though on the outside you may not distinguish them from dogs with arthritis. Arthritis is the Latin term for joint inflammation, which is chronic and much more difficult to treat. It is also caused by the wrong diet, toxicity, trauma, excessive strain and nutrition deficiencies but an arthritic dog's joints may be narrower, with a loss of cartilage, signs of inflammation, swelling and calcification.
Providing an environment full of both physical and mental stimulation will help keep your dog feeling youthful and active. It's important for owners to understand their dog's limits and create an exercise routine that all parties will enjoy. Ideally, you should walk or jog with your dog twice a day for 40 - 60 minutes and vary your activity. Do some cardio such as running for 20 minutes once a week, occasionally push your dog very slightly beyond his or her comfort zone to maintain stamina and be sure to follow up with some light recovery such as an occasional city street walk. Swimming is also a fantastic activity for dogs of all ages, but is particularly good for older dogs because it is low-impact and easy on their weakening joints and muscles. You should also keep your dog’s brain sharp by teaching him new tricks or playing hide and seek with his toys.
As your dog matures, make sure that he or she continues to socialize and connect with other pooches and people. While senior dogs may not be able to party like puppies in the park, most of them love to sit back and watch the action unfold so be sure the invitation is there. Most dogs love to be social, regardless of their age and many suffer from being alone. Inactivity can lead to depression and weakness, and this applies to dogs as much as it does to us.
Some older dogs will benefit from vitamins and supplements for their joints when combined with a healthy diet and proper exercise plan.
Here are some recommended supplements available to support your senior companion:
SierraSil Leaps and Bounds soft chews SierraSil, the active ingredient in Leaps and Bounds, is a naturally occurring volcanic mineral otherwise known as a hydrothermal clay complex from the Sierra Mountains that has been clinically proven to help support a healthy inflammatory response, gently detoxify, and improve physical function in under 2 weeks. It helps maintain joint mobility and eases stiffness due to normal daily exercise and activity, keeping your dog in peak condition. Watch the video below for more information and hear testimonials from many dog owners who have tried and tested these chews with success. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZXj0lqhAkg[/embed]
Ascenta Canine Omega 3 Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids are important for healthy cell function and structure and can, therefore, be very beneficial to dogs recovering from injury or chronic disease. For a dog already eating a high-quality diet that includes things like liver and egg yolks from grass-fed animals, this might already be enough, but you may consider supplementing with a natural Omega 3 product to help boost the immune system, support eye, and brain health and maintain a healthy skin and a shiny, soft coat.
Holistic Blend My Healthy Pet Probiotics & Enzymes A high percentage (roughly 60% - 80%) of the body’s immune system lies in the digestive tract. As dogs get older, they can be prone to picking up allergies or suffering greater stress from things like vaccinations or long distant travel which can cause havoc on the gut. Probiotics assist in defending potentially harmful bacteria and microorganisms your dog ingests on a daily basis. Believe it or not, your dog (or cat) has even more intestinal bacteria than you do, despite his much smaller size. So in the same way we supplement our own diets with probiotics to help manage digestion disorders, your dog can definitely benefit from doing the same.
Turmeric This well known superfood is taking the animal kingdom by storm and many pet owners and holistic veterinarians are now introducing tumeric to their pets diet, particularly for its anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting benefits. The suggested dosage is approximately 15 to 20 mg per pound of body weight in dogs. In other words an 1/8 to a ¼ teaspoon per day, for every 10lbs of dog weight. You can feed the powder, which is most commonly available, or crushed or fresh root. Sprinkle it right on top of your pet’s food and mix or, if you home cook, you can add it to the recipe. Turmeric is a binding agent, so ensure that your pet has lots of water to reduce the likelihood of constipation.
6. Regulate Energy flow
If you’ve ever had a massage, then you will know firsthand how great they can be. Your dog feels the same way. The act of massaging muscles increases blood flow which improves circulation, and in turn, benefits the entire body. Increased circulation helps with muscle recovery after exercise, and ensures good mobility. It is recommended that your dog receives regular adjustments/treatments by a chiropractor or physical therapist and is massaged weekly or biweekly as needed. Be sure to thoroughly research practitioners in your area and give it about one to two months before evaluating the results of their work. Don’t be afraid to be picky, ask your friends for referrals and protect your dog from people who like to boast of their skills, but don’t seem to deliver results. With these 6 steps, you can be as much of a guardian angel to your dog as he is to you but the most vital commitment you must make is consistency. When you feel lazy, too tired, unwell or just too busy, you must not neglect the oath of care you promised that pup when you bought him home.