Care & Feeding of Aging Dogs

Aging Dog

A lot of folks don’t realize it, but as companion animals grow older, their nutritional needs often change. As their caretakers, we owe it to them to provide the best we can, based on their current nutritional requirements. The truth is, when it comes to senior dogs, appropriate, targeted nourishment can make a real difference in terms of longevity and long-term happiness.

The Four Stages of Canine Life

The four stages of a dog’s life are: puppyhood, adolescence, adult and senior. Keep in mind, however, that breeds age at differing rates. When it comes to determining where your dog lands on the scale, size really does matter. For instance, small breeds enter adolescence and reach full size as adults much more quickly than do large breeds. Even so, small breeds enjoy a longer period in the adult life stage. Large and giant breed dogs progress more rapidly to the senior life stage, but overall have shorter lifespans. For example, while the average miniature poodle lives 15 years, a Great Dane’s life expectancy is about nine.

Regal Great Dane

When Do Dogs Become Seniors?

There is not one specific age at which a pet becomes a senior. In general, veterinarians consider dogs ages 6-7 as having entered their senior years, with larger dogs reaching seniority more quickly than small breed dogs. In human terms, a small or medium-sized breed dog at seven years of age is the equivalent of a mid-forties human, while a large or giant breed dog is more similar to a 50- to 56-year-old.

Aging is a complex process that depends on breed, environment and lifestyle, so even within the same breed, some individuals age more quickly than others. Your companion animal’s unique state of health is more important than any date on the calendar!

Common Health Conditions in Senior Dogs

Some of the common medical conditions seen in older pets include heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and joint disease. While it’s impossible for diet alone to address all of these conditions, we do know that providing senior dogs with optimal nutrition is the best thing you can do to ensure longevity (more about that in a minute). I ask each of you to work with your veterinarian to come up with a holistic plan to address your senior dog’s individual needs.

In addition to regular veterinary checkups, pet parents should be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms, all of which warrant a visit to the vet …

• Sudden changes in appetite, either decreased or increased
• Increased thirst & urination
• Straining to urinate or defecate
• Persistent cough
• Panting, even when resting
• Vomiting
• Difficulty rising from a resting position, climbing stairs, or getting in & out of cars
• Increased incidents of indoor elimination
• Sudden changes in temperament
• Acting confused or disoriented

The Importance of Dietary Supplements

Nutritional plans for seniors really should feature dietary supplements. For instance, most senior dogs would benefit from taking a premium joint supplement. Remember, aging joints are often painful joints! And it’s not at all uncommon for coats to lose their luster later in life … not to mention, skin becoming dry and flaky. Adding a balanced skin-and-coat supplement just might make all the difference! And, of course, general wellness supplements with antioxidants and immune support could help provide what your senior dog needs for his or her golden years.

The All Life Stage Food Solution

If you have multiple dogs on different diets and you’re worried about who’s eating what, simplify meal time by feeding in different rooms, or even in crates.

For most households, a premium all life stage diet offers the perfect solution. At Life’s Abundance, we’ve worked diligently to perfect formulas that provide abundant nutrition for all breeds, at all points in their life spectrum. The truth is, puppies and senior dogs share many of the same nutritional needs. For instance, our All Life Stage Dog Food features the additional amino acids, probiotics, Vitamin E and zinc that dogs need early AND late in life. With precise portions and individualized wellness supplements, the needs of each individual dog can be met.

Now that we’ve covered canines, I’ll be delving into senior cat nutrition next month.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks

Comments (8) -

  • Carol Lindley

    7/16/2016 5:24:47 AM |

    ​I have witnessed first hand how nutrition can effect an elderly dog. I put my 14 year old
    lab/golden mix on Life's Abundance about 9 months ago. At that time we were considering end of life decisions. She is now doing so well, it is as if she is 8 years old again!

  • Rebecca Forrest

    7/16/2016 8:40:56 AM |

    I know that all our adult and senior animals—dogs and cats—have relied on the full gamut of our supplements. They get our Omega-3 Fish Oil for Pets, our Agility Formula, our Skin & Coat Formula, and our Wellness Food Supplement.

    In addition, we also rely each day on the goodness of our Antioxidant Health Bars, Wholesome Hearts Lowfat Treats, and Gourmet Dental Treats for our dogs. And our senior cat was so in love with our Gourmet Cat Treats.

    We do all that and of course also use the All Life Stages dry food. And we supplement our dogs’ daily diet with the fun and nutrition from all our other treats.

    Life’s Abundance makes such a good, holistic approach to diet for our animals. We wouldn’t trust anything else!

  • Dana Shulman

    7/18/2016 7:42:23 AM |

    I have been feeding lifes abundance long enough to have seen the results across the lifetimes of a dozen much loved dogs. My large dogs (husky, mixed breeds, australian shepherds) have lived very happily to 15+ years while veterinarians have told me their life spans are really around 13 years. I attribute this to consistently feeding Life's abundance dog food. I have also had a couple dogs with sensitive skin and allergies and it has made all the difference for them. I have had very few sick visits to the vet as my dogs just seem to stay healthy so I feel it saves on veterinary costs as well. Also the customer service is outstanding. I have called so many times to change my autoship date and they are always so gracious and happy to help. Great company!

  • JoAnne

    7/18/2016 8:17:34 AM |

    Thank you for this great article.  I now have a house full of pets that are all over 11 years old, so this is a great reminder of things to look for in their health.  Knowing I am feeding the best food and supplimenting with treats with a purpose makes me feel good.  Thank you Dr. Jane for your excellent formulas.

  • Robin

    7/18/2016 8:46:59 AM |

    My 16 year old toy poodle is on Life's Abundance All Life Stage food and is still going strong.....no health problems at all! Thanks Life's Abundance for great nutrition!

  • Debbie Damesworth

    9/1/2016 7:23:04 PM |

    Wow, a great wealth of information about the senior years.  I had no idea it was so varied.
    Thank you so much, Dr. Jane, for all you do.

  • Blair

    9/27/2016 10:27:28 PM |

    Oh this article really touched me. My Awesome Aussie is approximately 12 years old. He is definitely slowing down. He has had both knees worked on as he was an athlete dog for many years. He is always been on a good diet - but now I know he has an even better diet and great quality supplements to help ease him through his senior years.

  • stephanie kraemer

    11/25/2016 4:47:00 PM |

    Excellent thoughts!

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