Tag: senior dog

The Best Food to Feed an Elderly Dog

Here at Waldo’s Friends, we are big fans of dogs of all sizes, colours, and ages. Senior dogs hold a special place in our hearts because we’ve encountered some of the sweetest and kindest aging canines over the years. Though they are not as playful and active as young puppies, they still have a lot Read More...

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Here at Waldo’s Friends, we are big fans of dogs of all sizes, colours, and ages. Senior dogs hold a special place in our hearts because we’ve encountered some of the sweetest and kindest aging canines over the years. Though they are not as playful and active as young puppies, they still have a lot of sloppy kisses and warm cuddles to give. 

If you’re wondering about how to care for senior dogs through the food they eat, you’ve come to the right place! This Waldo’s Friends blog post discusses:

But remember, this article should not replace a visit to your veterinarian. This is only meant to be a guide to help you make informed decisions on the well-being of your aging pet. 

How old is a senior dog?

Dogs can go through six life stages. Your dog is considered a puppy when he is born until he is able to reproduce, which is dependent on his breed. He becomes a junior from about 6 to 12 months old, then officially turns into an adult when he stops growing. When he goes past 7 years old, he is considered a mature dog. Then, he is called a senior during the last quarter of his life expectancy, and a geriatric when he goes beyond his breed’s life expectancy.  

Take note that age is only an approximate indicator. In an interview with Fetch, Fred Metzger, DVM revealed that being categorised as senior or geriatric “really depends on the breed and body weight [of a dog]. Large and giant breeds age faster than smaller dogs.” Additionally, your dog can be considered mature when he has reached half of his life expectancy. RSPCA shared a list of the average lifespan of popular dog breeds, ranging from 5.5 years (dogue de bordeaux) to 14.2 years (miniature poodle). As long as your dog is healthy and provided for in every aspect of his life, he may live beyond his breed’s life expectancy. 

When should I switch to senior dog food?

Large-sized dogs are generally called seniors by the time they turn 6 years old. Meanwhile, small-sized dogs more or less become seniors when they hit the 10-year mark. As these beloved dogs grow older, it is common for their health and stamina to deteriorate. As such, aging canines may suffer from these common health problems:

  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Gastrointestinal problems 
  • Hearing loss 
  • Heart issues
  • Joint problems
  • Kidney issues 
  • Obesity 
  • Vision loss

Switching your pet’s meals to specially formulated senior dog food is something that you should discuss with your veterinarian. He would most likely run physical exams, blood tests, and other wellness tests to assess your dog’s health before he can recommend the best diet. The new meal plan may include food formulation changes, as well as adjustments to the quantity and frequency of his meals.

What should be in the food of my senior dog?

It’s time to purchase (or even make) your senior dog’s new food after getting your vet’s approval and recommendations. Remember that it should be a well-balanced diet that caters to your dog’s specific needs. If you need to feed him a new brand or type of food, gradually introduce this to him over 7 days to prevent gastrointestinal troubles. Adjust the ratio by slowly increasing the amount of the new food, helping your dog get used to its taste and texture. Stop feeding the new food if your dog vomits or has the runs. 

It is recommended that you give your senior dog food which are:

  • Adequate in protein: Aging dogs need the right amount of high-quality protein (about 25%) to help them retain body weight and muscle mass. Protein also helps keep the body strong by assisting the immune system. However, dogs with kidney issues should have a lower amount of protein in their diet, so it doesn’t put too much strain on their kidneys.
  • High in fiber: Constipation is a common condition of senior dogs, so getting them food rich in fiber (containing 3 to 5%) can assist their bowel movement.  
  • Low in calories: Because older dogs are not as active as young pups, they do not need to use as much energy throughout the day. Low-calorie meals can help prevent obesity, which develops into diabetes in some dogs. 
  • Low in fat: Senior dog food tends to have lower levels of fat (about 8 to 12%), which translates to lower calories. Diabetic dogs will benefit from eating meals that are low in fat but high in fiber. 

Aside from consuming high-quality meals, senior dogs should eat treats low in fat and sodium. Fresh vegetables and fruits, such as carrots and apples, are healthy alternatives. Just make sure his snack portions do not go over his recommended daily intake. 

TIP: Check out which vegetables and fruits dogs can safely eat through our Can Dogs Eat category!

Other reminders for feeding older dogs 

  • Water is essential in keeping aging dogs hydrated. Some diseases or medications cause older dogs to pee frequently, so they need to continuously replenish the lost fluids from their bodies. Place bowls filled with fresh, cool water throughout the house to encourage your senior dog to drink up. 
  • Dry kibble may help reduce gum disease and control tartar buildup in senior dogs. But if your dog is used to eating wet food, he may not appreciate the switch.
  • If your dog isn’t too keen on eating dry food, you can add some warm water or chicken broth to make it more palatable. Adding a small amount of canned dog food might also do the trick!
  • If your senior dog doesn’t receive enough nutrients from his food, your veterinarian may recommend feeding him supplements. Dogs suffering from arthritis and joint pain may benefit from eating omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin. These chemicals help decrease inflammation and support the rebuilding of lost cartilage substance. 

If you notice any changes in your senior dog’s energy levels, his appearance, his food/water intake, his behaviour, or his toilet habits, speak with your veterinarian.  

Check out our guides to read more articles on responsible dog parenting. Uncover the best slow feeder bowl to get for your pooch, or learn 10 ways to help an anxious dog.

Things you should know about adopting a senior dog

Making the decision to adopt a pet can be both exciting and difficult. Choosing which dog to bring home can be overwhelming. There are so many different choices between animal shelters, breeds, levels of obedience, size, gender, special needs, and of course, age. Unfortunately, many people overlook adopting a senior dog for various reasons such Read More...

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Making the decision to adopt a pet can be both exciting and difficult. Choosing which dog to bring home can be overwhelming. There are so many different choices between animal shelters, breeds, levels of obedience, size, gender, special needs, and of course, age. Unfortunately, many people overlook adopting a senior dog for various reasons such as vet bills. The most common reason is that many people simply just want a puppy. In this article, we will discuss what defines a senior dog, what to expect, and why you should consider welcoming a senior dog into your home.

What is a senior dog?

Many think defining a senior dog is as simple as recognizing the age of the dog and multiplying it by seven. However, it’s actually a lot more complicated. Dogs can technically be considered a senior between the ages of five and 10 years old. However, this number varies greatly depending on different aspects such as the overall health of the dog, state of their organs, species, breed, and size.

Outside of these factors, there are other ways that can determine if a dog is reaching his or her senior years. Many of these signs aren’t hard to spot because they are quite similar to people. For example, senior dogs can experience dementia which could cause them to look lost or confused in familiar spaces. Other examples include loss of mobility or not getting excited to go play at the dog park or go for walks. While this isn’t guaranteed in every senior dog, it is just some of the common signs dogs show us when getting older.

It is important to remember that dogs are as unique as we are. The way that ageing will impact them is incredibly unique. Just because a dog is listed as a senior at the pet rescue does not mean they will be having accidents, require expensive medications and frequent vet trips, or that they won’t be able to walk, see, or hear properly. There are dogs that are considered seniors that are more active and in better health than those that are considered puppies and there is nothing wrong with that. The senior label is simply an easy way for shelters and adoptive parents to see where the animal is in their life and what potential special needs you can expect now or in the future when adopting this dog.

What to expect when adopting a senior dog

Senior dogs are some of the most unappreciated and dismissed dogs in animal shelters. This is because many people worry about large and frequent vet bills as well as a shorter life span, which is never an easy thing to deal with no matter how long your companion has been in your lives. While all of these reasons are completely understandable, senior dogs need a loving forever home too.

When adopting a senior dog, there are many upsides you can expect that might even make a senior the perfect match for you. For instance, they’re perfect if you are a quiet person who likes to relax or you have a loud and hectic household full of high energy people. Senior dogs are incredibly mellow, and in a lot of cases, they’re very low maintenance. While they still require regular bathroom breaks, they won’t necessarily require the amount of exercise you would be expected to give a puppy. Speaking of bathroom breaks, senior dogs are almost always potty trained which can be incredibly appealing to those who don’t want to deal with the process of potty training a puppy.

While their age may turn off some people, it can actually be a blessing in disguise. When you bring home a senior dog, you aren’t in for any surprises. You won’t take home a 25-pound puppy and end up with a 100-pound beast within a few weeks. What you see is what you get. Additionally, they are very wise and know all of the rules and what is expected of them. They understand that they should ask to go outside to use the bathroom, they know how to walk nicely on and off a leash, and they almost always understand that chewing should be left to toys and not furniture or personal items. Senior dogs are incredibly good listeners and despite popular belief, you can definitely teach an old dog new tricks.

Another worry people have when adopting a senior is the bonding experience. Many express worry that because the dog isn’t a puppy they won’t bond to their adoptive parent. However, in a lot of cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many senior dogs have been abandoned and have special needs that require a bit more care. This can actually create a stronger bond than you would expect. While it makes more sense that your bond would grow stronger with age, it can also grow stronger with needs. These dogs know they have been saved, they know you are helping them, and they appreciate it.

The most important aspect of adopting a senior dog is that you are saving a life. These dogs are overlooked and almost always end up at the bottom of the animal shelters’ least desired list. Even when they are completely healthy and ready to explore the world, they could end up being unwanted because of their age and that simply isn’t fair. Whether a senior dog has one month or five years left, they deserve to live out their last years as their best years in a warm, safe, and loving home.

Photo by Ruby Schmank/Unsplash

How to take care of your senior dog

Every dog is unique. They all come with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. When adopting a senior dog, it is important that you are aware of all of his current medical issues and overall state of health. The best way to do this is to talk to the animal shelter and the vets involved. Additionally, it is always highly recommended that you take the dog for a vet check-up as soon you have adopted him. This will ensure that everything is up to date and nothing has happened since the last check-up.

The most important thing you can do to take care of your senior dog is to ensure they get regular check-ups. Check-ups are the best way to find lumps, bumps, and any other issues that aren’t showing symptoms. Senior dogs experience ageing in various ways at different stages in life, so there is no guarantee what your dog will or will not experience. Paying close attention to your companion and truly learning their behaviour is the best way to ensure they are doing okay. Some of the things you can watch out for are abnormal cognitive behaviours such as looking or acting lost and confused. Additionally, older dogsespecially ones that have been surrendered or abandonedcan experience depression and anxiety. This can wreak havoc on your dog’s well-being and should be treated like any other disease or illness.

Monitoring how much they eat, drink, and how frequently they use the bathroom is also important. You want to make sure they are getting enough hydration and nutrition, as well as using the bathroom enough. Discharges, inability to urinate, and abnormal bowel movements are all signs that something might be wrong. Additionally, dental health can tell you a lot about age, history, and health. Dental disease is common in senior dogs and while it isn’t always serious, you should keep an eye on it. Bad breath, inflamed gums, and difficulty breathing can be signs of ageing as well as underlying health problems that should be examined.

Caring for a senior pet involves a bit more than just watching out for abnormalities in their health. In fact, one of the best ways to take care of your new companion is to ensure they are getting clean water, healthy quality food, and adequate exercise. The first step you should take before bringing home your senior companion is to ensure that your home is geriatric proof. This involves making sure that any dangerous spots are guarded such as stairs and pools. Furthermore, if your dog suffers from vision or hearing loss it is important you make the home as safe and easily accessible as possible. Hearing and vision loss can seem like impossible problems to deal with, but dogs actually handle them well once they learn the layout of the home and adjust to their new routines.

The process of adopting a pet can be incredibly stressful, and senior dogs are no exception. But with the right amount of preparation and support, you can adopt a senior dog with the least amount of stress and worry. The next time you are at the animal shelter looking to adopt a pet, consider a senior dog. It is easy to look at the downsides and think they might end up being expensive or sickly, but that isn’t always the case. It is guaranteed, however, that saving a senior dog’s life will be one of the most priceless and rewarding things you’ll ever experience.