After many years of wags and walks, your old dog deserves to be a happy dog! Here are 6 ways to ensure your old friend is living his best life, in the best health.
1. Regular checkups at the vet
From teeth to eyes, ears and joints, an old dog needs to visit the vet for checkups more regularly than a younger dog. So, because a happy dog is a healthy one, make sure you take the time to book regular appointments, not just if you think something might be up. It’s also great just in case there are any concerns – your vet stands more chance of catching any warning signs early.
2. Healthy diet for happy dogs
When caring for an old dog, care starts at home and, more specifically, in their bowl! As your dog gets older, they require fewer calories due to lower energy levels. This means you shouldn’t keep feeding them the same amount as when they were younger. Avoid too many snacks, which can easily pile on the pounds. Apple slices and carrot sticks should make them just as happy as biscuits!
For their dinner, monitoring calorie consumption can be helpful, but the main takeaway is to remember to keep your dog’s diet healthy, with vegetables, low in fat and high in fibre.
3. Stay active, but don’t overstretch
To keep your old dog in good shape, they do need exercise. Sniffing around and enjoying a nice walk are still essential, but don’t push their limits. They might not be able to tell you, but joints get stiffer and more vulnerable as dogs age, so keep walks to a nice strolling speed, and don’t overdo it on any countryside hikes.
For overweight old dogs, swimming can offer a great way to burn excess fat without putting pressure on the joints. Ask your vet about any local canine aqua classes near you!
4. Keep your dog’s brain engaged
Just as with the body, it’s essential to keep the brain active as a dog gets older. If they are still a fiend for food, hiding healthy snacks in their favourite Kong toy, or regularly practicing obedience training for example, can be ways to focus their mind and keep them happy.
Changing up the routine can also be a good way to prevent an old dog from getting lazy, both mentally and physically. Take them out to meet new people and places to encourage socialising. We can all get set in our ways!
5. Make time for naps
Everybody loves a good nap, especially older dogs, who need more rest than before. Allow your dog some happy “me-time” and give them a special place in the house where they can go and chill out with a comfy blanket or soft cushions on ground-level (to avoid them having to jump up).
For dogs that prefer to be near their owners all the time, a special cosy doggie bed can provide a source of respite when nap time is calling. Don’t let any other members of the household steal it!
6. A happy old dog at home
Speaking of ground-level, bear in mind that your dog’s legs will get weaker with time. For very old dogs, it may help to put food and water on a short stool or cushion at head level, and to pick them up when going upstairs. A small step up to the sofa can also prevent them from trying to jump and potentially hurting themselves.
Non-slip flooring is also something to think about. If your dog is exercising less due to their age, nails can grow and cause discomfort and slipping when walking about. Visit the vet for a manicure, and think about possible carpet or rug solutions at home.