It’s never pleasant to think about, but dogs age faster than humans and older dog care will become necessary.  Before you know it, your dog will be showing signs of age—but this isn’t a bad thing; it just means that you’re going to have to give him some extra special care.  Dogs begin to show visible age-related changes at about seven to twelve years of age.  There are several changes that occur and it is your job as an owner to be prepared for them.  Some of the changes are unavoidable; others can be managed or treated with diet, medications, or other forms of therapy.  Read the information and follow the steps below to help make your dog’s adult life enjoyable!

1)    Feeding the right diet. Size is used to determine when it’s time to feed your dog a senior diet.
•    Small breeds, less than 20 lbs-7 years of age
•    Medium breeds, 21 to 50 lbs-7 years of age
•    Large breeds, 51 to 90-6 years of age
•    Giant breeds, 91 pounds or more—5 years of age

2)    Be aware of common health issues that may arise.  This may include:
•    Deterioration of skin and coat
•    Loss of muscle mass
•    Intestinal problems
•    Arthritis
•    Obesity
•    Dental problems
•    Decreased ability to fight off infection

3)    Prevent obesity.  Dogs undergo changes in body composition that may cause them to put on body fat.  This is most often caused by a slower metabolism.  When it comes to older dog care and avoiding weight gain, feed your dog a diet that contains optimum levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain good muscle mass. 

4)    Focus on protein.  Avoid “senior” diets that contain reduced levels of protein.  Studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age.  Dogs need to maintain their muscle mass just like humans does.

5)    Antioxidants including vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate free radicals that can damage your dog’s body tissues and contribute to signs of aging.  Foods that you purchase for your aging pet should contain high amounts of these compounds. 

6)    Regular veterinary exams are still important.  This cannot be emphasized enough—routine care for older dog care is important for veterinarians to assess the presence or progress of chronic disease.  Your vet can also give you tips to enhance your pet’s life.

The main goal when feeding older dogs should be to maintain health and optimum body weight, slow or prevent the development of chronic disease, and minimize or improve clinical signs of diseases that may already be present.  Keep an eye on your senior pet’s health and ask a veterinarian about even the slightest concern.