5 Ways To Help Your Senior Dog Age Gracefully

It happened. One morning, we looked at our dog Moses, and there it was – a ring of frosting around his muzzle. No, he didn’t get into the frosting can – it’s what we call gray hair, and Moses, at eight years old, is starting to show a lot of it on his face. 

Moses is an Anatolian Shepherd, and they can live to be eleven or twelve. It got us thinking about what we could do to keep him active, his mind nimble, and his body as comfortable as possible.

If you also have a dog with a bit of frosting on its face, here are 5 things you can do to help them age gracefully and comfortably. 

A Comfy Bed for Old Bones

First up, let's talk about beds. Your senior dog's joints and muscles can get pretty achy, so a regular old dog bed may not cut it. Older dogs can benefit from sleeping on some sort of orthopedic bed with plenty of cushioning and support. A study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that dogs who slept on orthopedic beds showed improved mobility and less pain compared to those who slept on a regular dog bed. 

Anatolians are livestock guard dogs who typically sleep on the ground, so it is no surprise that Mo prefers sleeping on the floor most of the time. We do have an orthopedic foam mattress that our bed which we repurposed into a giant dog bed for Moses (video below). As he ages, he is starting to sleep on this bed more and more.

 

An Age-Appropriate Diet

As dogs age, their nutritional needs change, so what you feed them in their earlier years may not be appropriate for them as they age.  Studies suggest switching to a high-quality senior dog food that is lower in calories and higher in fiber. 

A dietary change is something that you may want to consider doing sooner rather than later. Our vet just recommended that we start changing our 4-year-old Labrador's diet to keep his weight in control. He’s not overweight, but like people - as dogs age, their metabolism slows, and their weight can start creeping up. 

A study in the Journal of Animal Science found that dogs fed a diet specifically formulated for seniors had better body condition scores and a reduced risk of obesity. 

Improving or slightly changing your dog’s diet can help support their digestive health and prevent weight gain - which will keep their joints in better shape (more on that later). At your next annual veterinary visit, ask how you can work with your dog’s diet to give them the best advantage as they age.

Hip & Joint Support

If you’ve noticed your dog is slower to rise or is a bit shaky upon standing, it may be time to consider giving them joint supplements. Our sign with Moses was that he was hesitant to jump into the back of our truck – something he did easily a year ago.  

Arthritis and joint pain are all too common in senior dogs, but supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids can work wonders. A study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that dogs receiving these supplements had improved joint function and reduced pain. It's like giving their joints a little extra TLC! 

We’ve recently started giving Moses joint supplements - disguised in treat form - and he seems a little more comfortable.

 

Keep ‘Em Moving 

Exercise is crucial for our senior pups and should be adjusted by the intensity and duration to suit their abilities. Stick with lower-impact activities like walking, swimming, or even gentle playtime. Each of these activities can help maintain muscle mass, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. 

A study in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association found that dogs who participated in regular, moderate exercise had improved mobility and a lower risk of obesity and other age-related health issues, so even a simple walk every day can be of great benefit for them - and for you too! 

Stimulate Their Brains

Just like aging humans, senior dogs' minds need to stay active and engaged to maintain cognitive function. You can stimulate their brains by providing them with interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and walks in new areas they have not been to before to help keep their minds sharp.  

A study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that dogs who participated in cognitive enrichment activities had improved memory and problem-solving skills and a reduced risk of developing age-related cognitive decline. 

We are lucky to have two dogs who love playing with each other. Not only are they getting exercise, but they are also interacting and using their brains to understand each other’s moods and emotional cues.

By implementing these five strategies, you can help ensure your senior dog enjoys a comfortable, healthy, and fulfilling life in their golden years. Trust us, your senior pup will thank you for the extra love and care.

*Remember, we are not vets, and each dog is unique so please consult with your vet to develop a personalized plan that meets your dog’s specific needs. 

 

1 comment

One of my dogs is now 17.5 and is just now slowed down. I totally agree with your list with special emphasis on staying active. I attribute my dogs living long, happy lives to the fact that they get long walks and quality off-leash time their entire lives.

Angela Gordon June 03, 2024

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