Many dog owners assume a dog won’t slow down until their teen years. However, the physical characteristics of an older dog begin as young as six. Aging sucks. Due to the short amount of time we get with our pets, it is extra hard for us humans.
Maintaining a high quality of life for an older dog can be done through age-defying nutrients, age-appropriate accommodations, and activity. Below we’re sharing some ways we have kept our 12-year-old Boston Terrier spry, agile, and strong.
Signs Your Dog is Aging
Some signs of aging can be very dramatic, but most of the time what you are seeing is very gradual signs. Once you notice signs of aging, begin taking steps to slow it down. The first indication of aging happens when your dog tires more easily during play or exercise.
Instead of trotting upstairs, they may take them one step at a time. As aging progresses, they may even have problems getting up into their favorite chair. This can be an early sign of diseases associated with aging like arthritis, diabetes, and heart ailments.
Other common signs of aging include:
- Vision or hearing problems
- Greying hair, especially around the face
- Increased separation anxiety
- Mental confusion
- Decreased attention to surroundings
- Increased periods of sleep
As aging increases, you may also find that your older dog exhibits loss of former knowledge, particularly when it comes to housebreaking. As they age, elimination accidents will become more common with their need to more urgently relieve themselves.
The good news is that aging, particularly early signs of aging, can be slowed down with dietary therapy. As an owner, you have the opportunity to provide your older dog with specific anti-aging nutrients that can help them feel a little more youthful again.
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) – It is thought that the decrease in SAMe, a nutrient found in every cell of a dog’s body, can be the cause of increased aging.
A study found that dogs which were given supplements of SAMe had a 50 percent reduction of mental impairment than those that did not take it.
- Ginko Biloba – Ginko not only has been shown to protect against dementia and improve mental faculties in humans, but it works in animals too.
- Phosphatidylserine – This is a naturally occurring nutrient that is used as sort of a building block in cell membranes.
Taking it as a supplement can help memory, learning, and social behavior in animals as well as humans.
- Vitamin B6 – This vitamin inhibits the production of free radical and oxidative stress in the body, which can be a primary cause of a mental decline in dogs.
- Vitamin E – While humans may use this to combat signs of aging on their face, Vitamin E in dogs actually protects against memory lapses.
How to Improve an Old Dog’s Quality of Life
We can help prolong aging, but inevitably we can’t stop it. After a certain point, all you can do is make sure your dog is comfortable as the process happens. One of the best things you can do is keep a stable environment. Your dog is aging mentally as well as physically, keep their environment predictable.
Routines are important for senior dogs. A routine helps prevent the increased anxiety that comes with age and reduces confusion. Just because your dog is aging, does not mean play and socialization need to cease. Not only can play time and training help get them to exercise, but it provides a certain amount of mental stimulation that can help slow down the mental effects of aging from taking hold.
In fact, the more your dog uses their brain throughout their life, the less likely they will be to suffer from confusion later in life. Mentally stimulating, yet age-appropriate, games are very healthy for dogs. Putting a focus on the comfort of your older dog is crucial. As they move slower and spend more time sleeping, age-appropriate accommodations are helpful.
- Elevated bed to keep your dog’s sore bones from pushing against the ground
- Heated bed to relax older bones – especially if your pet suffers from arthritis.
- Aromatherapy can help dogs that are having trouble seeing by giving their still-working nose scent cues on where to go.
- Use ramps to allow your dog to easily get in/out of the car, onto the couch etc.
- Keep shouting to a minimum. Older dogs are more prone to stress, anxiety, and depression. Keep your voice calm and quiet, even if you are praising them. If blind, all shouting can be stressful.