A Complete Guide to Helping Your Older Dog Live a Longer Life

by Lydia Janssen
Older dogs need special care.

Older dogs need special care.

Apple Tree House/Photodisc/Getty Images

Your older dog has been with your family for years, and it's up to you to keep him happy and healthy for as long as you can. Adjusting the kind of care you give your dog as he gets older and working closely with your veterinarian will help you give your pal the most years and the best quality of life he can have.

Nutrition

As your buddy grows older, his dietary needs change. Older dogs generally need food that is lower in fat while still maintaining protein content. Feeding your dog smaller meals more often is easier on his aging digestive system. Your veterinarian might also suggest adding supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C or antioxidants to your dog's diet, depending on his health. Giving your dog some pork hide to chew and brushing his teeth with dog toothpaste after meals will reduce his chances of gum disease and prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria into his system, potentially adding years to his life.

Environmental Changes

Older dogs will benefit from a few creature comforts they didn't need in their younger years. Your pal can't regulate his temperature as well has he used to, so give him a warm, dry place to sleep and don't let him get too hot when exercising. He may also need more time inside and could use a ramp instead of stairs to make climbing easier on his joints. If your dog is having vision problems, try to keep your house's layout predictable so it's easier for him to navigate.

Veterinary Care

Consistent veterinary care and preventative testing will help keep your pal healthy in his later years. Yearly blood tests and a blood titer to see if he needs any booster shots on his vaccines may be a good place to start, if your vet recommends them. Getting your dog a checkup a few times a year instead of just once will also give him an advantage. Be on the lookout for signs that something could be wrong, such as a decrease in appetite, sudden weight gain, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, weakness, changes in housebreaking, increased thirst or rapid or strained breathing even when at rest.

Physical and Mental Exercise

Proper exercise is important to keep your pet sharp and healthy. Keep your dog as active as he can safely handle to help him stay healthy. Dogs who get little to no exercise often lose their health much more quickly, while dogs who stay in a healthy weight range live an average of 1.8 years longer, so keep your buddy fit. You should also spend time with your dog and give him a little mental exercise, whether you ask him to do tricks (as long as they're easy on his joints) or just interact with him, to help keep his mind strong.

Photo Credits

  • Apple Tree House/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

Lydia Janssen began her career writing news articles for the SPCA to connect adoptable pets with their potential owners. She moved into professional writing in 2009 and uses her experience as a dog trainer, SPCA kennel worker and veterinary technician to bring quality information to responsible pet owners.

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