Top Healthy Living Habits for Senior Dogs

As
our dogs age, it’s more important than ever to ensure that we’re helping them
live their happiest, healthiest lives. In this blog, our Freshpet vet, Dr.
Aziza, shares her top healthy living habits and answers some of your most-asked
questions about senior dogs.

What types of health problems can I
expect my aging dog to experience?

As
a dog gets older there are multiple diseases that may develop. Some of the most
common include:

  • Osteoarthritis: This is an irreversible disease leading to joint inflammation. Older dogs with osteoarthritis often show signs of stiffness and have difficulty moving around, with many pet parents describing them as generally “slowing down”.
  • Periodontal
    disease:
    Aging dogs who
    haven’t had consistent dental care throughout their life will show signs of
    severe dental disease. Symptoms of this can include significant bad breath,
    exhibiting pain when they’re touched around the mouth, aggression due to pain,
    weight loss due to pain from chewing food, and being a picky eater.
  • Metabolic diseases: There are many metabolic diseases that older dogs can start to show signs of, including diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease, to name a few. Most of these diseases can be detected through routine blood work conducted during your dog’s annual wellness check, which increases the importance of this appointment in your pet’s senior years. Thankfully, if detected early most metabolic diseases are treatable and can be managed at home.
  • Internal organ disease: As pets age, we start to see signs of stress or damage to some of the internal organs, like the kidneys or liver. Fortunately, in consultation with your vet, some of this damage can be managed by dietary changes, nutraceuticals, and supplements.

At what point does my dog start to
be considered “old”?

When
it comes to determining at what age your dog is considered “old” there’s not a
one-size-fits-all answer. This is because it’s tied closely to their breed,
which giant dog breeds typically have a shorter life span compared to medium-
and small-sized breeds.

Since
there’s such a discrepancy between breeds, veterinarians typically recommend
annual blood work panels and physical exams every six months when a dog reaches
seven years old. This allows them to screen for diseases that tend to show up
later in a pet’s life, like the ones we listed above. The earlier they’re
identified, the sooner we can start treating them, which leads to a far better
prognosis or long-term outcome.

How much daily exercise should my
senior dog be able to handle?

There
are two key factors that determine how much exercise a senior dog can handle:

  • Breed: Certain breeds are extremely active while others
    love to be couch potatoes. The size of the breed also plays a role – for
    example, toy breeds can benefit greatly from a walk around a couple of blocks,
    unlike a Labrador retriever who may need to walk a couple of miles.
  • Underlying
    health concerns:
    If a senior
    dog has underlying conditions like heart disease, lung disease, heartworm
    infections, obesity, or even osteoarthritis, exercise will be more difficult
    for them.

Try
to encourage your dog to exercise as much as they can without putting too much
stress on their bodies. If you find that your dog is struggling with the
different exercise options you try, speak to your veterinarian about
alternative forms of exercise. We’re fortunate to live in a time where there
are several fun and exciting exercise options for older pets, such as
underwater treadmills, that allow them to safely stay active.

Do you suggest a certain eating
schedule for senior dogs?

I recommend feeding senior dogs two well-balanced and nutrient-dense meals a day to support their aging bodies. Healthy dog food recipes like Freshpet are great for senior dogs as they are made of high-quality, fresh, fruits, veggies, and proteins that are gently steam-cooked to lock in vital nutrients. This makes the meals much more similar to how a home-cooked diet would be prepared, compared to kibble.

Should I change my aging dog’s diet
or introduce any types of supplements?

Senior dogs can have different nutritional needs than younger dogs, which is why I often recommend joint supplements, especially if they are showing signs of osteoarthritis. If there are concerns about weight management, dry skin, or even a sensitive stomach, having a well-balanced diet like Freshpet is a great choice. As I mentioned before, each recipe is made of fresh, whole ingredients that make it the best dog food for senior pets managing those common concerns.

How much sleep should my senior dog
be getting per day?

Dogs
love catnaps and, in general, senior dogs sleep more than younger dogs. After a
particularly active day, you may notice that they’re sleeping a bit more than
normal and this is okay. However, if you notice your dog is sleeping all day
long, this can be a warning sign of an underlying health concern. If you’re
worried that your senior dog is sleeping too much, make a wellness appointment
with your vet to rule out any potential health issues.

How can I maintain my senior dog’s
mental health?

In
addition to your pet’s physical health, it’s important that you focus on
keeping up with their mental health as they age. A great way to maintain your
senior dog’s mental health is to have consistent enrichment and activities that
keep their mind active. Encourage your dog to play independently with toys,
interact with family and friends throughout the day, and exercise through play.

It’s also important to have a great diet that will support their cognitive health as well as their physical health. Freshpet salmon recipes are great sources of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which help promote brain health.

We
hope that you’re able to incorporate some of Dr. Aziza’s tips into your dog’s
regular routine so that they can enjoy their golden years to the fullest.

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