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How can I keep my elderly dog healthy?

We should embrace old age, however, as the years go by we start to notice some subtle changes in our pet’s behaviour, for example, lagging behind on walks.  They cannot keep up with the younger dogs and become less inclined to exert themselves.  Aging is a natural process that can limit your pet’s physical activity. But that doesn’t mean that older dogs have to lounge on the sofa or in their beds from here on out!  You can modify your dog’s favourite exercises to better fit their new ability level. 

So, what can you do to help keep elderly dogs healthy and in shape? 

The most obvious one would be to shorten the walks and take more of them.  As your pet gets older you will notice that they cannot walk for 30 minutes straight like they could in their younger years.  It is important that you do not stop taking your pet for a walk simply because they got too difficult.  Instead break one long walk up into multiple shorter ones throughout the day.  If this becomes too difficult research local dog walkers near you and see if they can help.  In this way your furry friend can get the same amount of exercise in more manageable chunks.

My lab loves swimming which is a low-impact exercise that is gentle on his joints.  Doggy paddling around a pond will give your senior dog a full-body workout that is great for overall conditioning.  Swimming is fun for dogs but it is also prescribed for injured dogs or those recovering from surgery.  See if your local doggy day-care facility or rehabilitation centre offers open swimming hours for dogs if you don’t have a pool or pond nearby. 

Indoor fetch can be a great game for all ages as long as you tailor it to your dog’s ability level.  Playing indoors helps your senior dog balance whereas a garden or park can have areas that are uneven making it difficult for senior dogs to keep their footing.  The reason you might be reading this is because you have noticed some change in your dog’s behaviour due to age - so remember whilst outdoor spaces may tempt you to throw the ball long distances, all that running can be hard on their joints.  Alternatively, you can throw your dog’s toy with an underhand throw that lets your dog catch it without jumping too high. 

When dogs get older exercise becomes less about working hard and more about encouraging them to stay active.  You can do so by setting up a fun scavenger hunt around the house.  Treats motivate older dogs to get moving and reward them for their efforts.  Hide treats in easily accessible areas that are low to the ground.  Your dog should be able to sniff out the treats but you can guide them along the way if necessary.  Another exercise to consider is figure eights which is an agility drill that improves flexibility and develops stabilising muscles throughout the body.  This exercise also teaches your elderly dogs a new trick, which stimulates their brain and promotes cognitive functioning.  Create a line of cones, making sure the space between them is the same as your dog’s length. Help your dog weave in and out of the cones by guiding them with a treat. 

It is important to ensure that older dogs receive a high-quality diet.  Speaking from experience I had to learn to read the dog food label and choose a diet that is appropriate for my dog’s age and lifestyle.  It is always important to consult your vet when doing this and to ensure you use food to keep your senior dog at his ideal body weight.   A diet with a carefully chosen carbohydrate or carbohydrate blend can also help keep your overweight dog feeling satiated. 

This is not something we tend to consider but it is important to take care of your dog’s mouth.  Brushing your dog’s teeth may seem like a silly idea but it can help keep your dog’s mouth healthy.  If you cannot brush, consider dental treats and toys that help keep the teeth clean. 

If your elderly dog suffers from arthritis it might benefit from soft bedding in the form of a special dog bed or towels/blankets on which to sleep.  Ramps can be used to make stairs easier to navigate if they cannot be avoided.  Even providing carpeting can help your arthritic dog gain his footing and make it easier for him to move around. 

Do not avoid taking your dog to the vet.  A regular visit with your veterinarian, at least once a year even if your dog appears healthy, will help in the long term.  Many diseases are hidden and not apparent.  Remember it is much cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it!  You can ask your vet to carry out a body condition examination which is crucial to determining whether your dog is overweight or underweight.  If you have not heard of body conditioning before,  it is a scoring system which has been developed by vets to help assess if your dog is the correct weight. 

My elderly dog is not the athlete he once was and a 10-mile walk probably isn’t going to happen anymore.  On the bright side, this is the perfect opportunity to try something new, like the range of GudFur dog supplements a good healthy diet and exercise. 

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