7 Ways You Can Help Your Dog Stay Young
If German shepherds have one flaw, it’s that they don’t live long enough. No matter how badly we wish our dogs could live forever, just like all living creatures, they can’t. And, the time shared with them is never enough.
Since they are truly our best friends, we want to keep them as youthful as possible. That means ensuring that they are well taken care of so that they have the best quality of life, for as long possible.
Here are some tips to help keep your dog in its prime for as long as you can:
1. Feed a Healthy Diet
There are as many opinions about what makes the best dog food as there are dog owners. The truth is, not all dogs do well on the same diet. What one dog may thrive on can make another dog suffer.
The best thing you can do for your German shepherd is to start feeding it the right diet from the very beginning. A German shepherd puppy requires food appropriate for the growth and maintenance of large breed puppies.
When your dog is grown, transition to a healthy diet that agrees with your dog. A healthy dog will have lots of energy, healthy skin, shiny coat, healthy bowels, a strong immune system, normal lab work, and maintains a healthy weight.
You can supplement your dog’s diet with fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables but be sure they are getting 85-90% of their calories from nutritionally adequate AAFCO-established, science-based, nutritional standard, as specified on the food label for the size and life stage of your dog.
2. Regular Check Ups at the Vet
Just like you, your healthy dog should have an annual physical. This will help prevent any surprises plus provide your vet with a baseline of what your dog is like when they’re feeling good. Since German shepherds are masters at hiding pain and other problems, regular vet care will help ensure your dog is doing as good as they look.
If you dog is sick, elderly, or taking certain medications, they may require more frequent visits to ensure that there are no problems brewing. If your dog seems off, isn’t acting like themselves, unexplainably starts gaining or losing weight, has a sudden behavior change, or digestive problems that are not resolving, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with vet.
3. Provide the Right Amount and Type of Exercise
German shepherds need lots of exercise. They are very active dogs but the amount will vary throughout their life. Although most shepherds will remain active into their senior years, it is totally normal that they slow down as they age.
As puppies, you can help protect their joints by preventing them from slipping, playing too crazy, and jumping off of high furniture, vehicles, and beds. Although they love to jump and run, preventing them from stressing their joints will help prevent future injuries and arthritis.
Once they are grown and their growth plates have closed, they can be more active but care should be given that they don’t take huge leaps, rapid pivots while running full tilt, weekend warrior hikes without conditioning, and strenuous, long runs.
By managing their activity and their environment, you can provide a safe place for them to exercise while helping to prevent joint and spine injuries and potential arthritis so that they remain active and pain free for as long as possible.
4. Provide Lifelong Physical and Mental Activity
German shepherds need to exercise their mind as much as their body. Very basic training should begin as soon as you bring them home but should be lifelong. These dogs enjoy learning and being mentally stimulated. As working dogs, they require it to avoid behavior problems.
Basic obedience, tricks, and games are just some of the basic things you can do. Training will ensure you raise a confident, socialized, well behaved, and happy dog. By continuing teaching them things throughout their life, you will help keep their mind sharp and engaged in life far into their senior years.
5. Feed the Right Supplements to Support an Active Life
As your dog ages, their nutritional needs will change. Although a good quality, healthy dog food is full of nutrients, at some point in their life you should talk to their vet about adding supplements to prevent or help age related problems.
Supplements like omega oil (EPA and DHA), glucosamine, chondroitin, msn, green lipped mussel, CBD oil, turmeric, and collagen can be beneficial and provide joint support and reduce inflammation.
While you won’t need to supplement all of these at once, a good omega oil and glucosamine and chondroitin supplement is a good place to start for most adult dogs. Dogs suffering from allergies and other immune system or digestive problems may also benefit from probiotics.
Dogs taking certain medications can benefit from certain herbs and supplements that help protect the liver and kidneys.
6. Build a Strong Immune System
By feeding a healthy diet with added fresh vegetables and fruits, providing supplements suggested by a vet, allowing them to get plenty of fresh air and exercise, minimizing exposure to environmental toxins, and keeping your dog well-groomed, you can help your dog build a strong immune system so they can easily fight off disease and hopefully prevent some of the cancers plaguing dogs today.
7. Pay Attention to Small Changes
By paying attention to the small details, you can help identify issues before they become big problems. This way you can help your dog avoid serious illnesses as they age. Some tips include:
- Give your dog regular massages so you notice any lumps or bumps before they get big.
- Pick up poop quickly so you notice changes in bowel habits right away.
- Keep teeth clean and note a change in breath which could indicate an infection or dental problem.
- Be sure they drink enough water every day to avoid kidney damage.
- Add wet food to their diet to increase moisture and satisfaction with food.
- Take note of subtle behavior changes that could indicate illness or pain.
- Groom often to watch for dry skin, sores, and parasites.
- Provide preventatives, such as heartworm, flea and tick control.
- Keep your yard pet friendly.
- Keep nails trimmed and paws healthy.
- Talk to your vet if your dog suddenly starts gaining or losing weight for no obvious reason.
- Talk to your vet about quality of life concerns as your dog ages.
While you can’t prevent your dog from aging, by following these tips you can help keep them young and young at heart. We hope you find them helpful. As always, feel free to share with your friends.
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