How To Keep Your Senior Dog Young
According to the American Kennel Club, the lifespan of a German shepherd is about 7 – 10 years. Lucky for us, many live long past that age and survive to be around 12 – 13 years old.
There’s no denying their lives are too short. No matter how long they live, everyone hopes their dog will have a good quality of life for as long as possible. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help them live their best life for as long as possible.
Since large dogs age faster than their smaller canine friends, German shepherds are considered seniors by around 7 years old. Although it can be hard to think about them getting old, there are ways you can help them stay young physically and mentally, and preserve their good health as much as possible.
Helping a dog hold on to some of their youth involves taking good care of the dog from the time they are a puppy and maintaining that care throughout their life. To help your dog stay happy and healthy into their senior years involves providing:
- A good diet
- Fresh water
- Plenty of exercise
- Mental stimulation
- Vet Care
- Immune system support
- Fresh air
- Love and companionship
As your dog ages, their nutritional needs change. They require less calories and depending on their health condition and activity level, may also require less fat and protein than they once did since they are no longer as active.
When looking for a food for a senior dog, look for one with high quality protein, glucosamine and chondroitin, pre and probiotics, vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids to protect their skin and coat. Many times, easy to digest or sensitive system formulas will help seniors more easily digest and absorb the nutrients from their food.
Wet foods are easier on aging kidneys so seniors can benefit from more moisture in their diet in the form of canned food. Fresh or homemade toppers not exceeding 10-15% of their caloric intake (if not supplemented with vitamins, such as BalanceIt) can also be used. Wet food not only provides a nutritional boost, it may also help a picky senior eat better.
As they age, their calories also need to be adjusted down if they are less active. Keeping them fit will also help them live longer. However, if they are too thin or suddenly start dropping weight for no apparent reason, you should see your vet right away.
Seniors often have to go outside to urinate more often but limiting their water intake is not the solution to that problem. Aging dogs need plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration and keep their kidneys healthy.
However, if your senior dog is suddenly drinking more water than usual, it can be a sign of illness such as a urinary tract infection, diabetes, kidney disease, and Cushings syndrome and other problems so it is best to see a vet if their thirst suddenly increases.
As German shepherds age, they begin to slow down and some will suffer from degenerative diseases such as cruciate ligament injuries, spinal stenosis, hip dysplasia, and other orthopedic problems. While it is important for them to keep moving, it is also important to keep them from overdoing it and becoming injured.
It will be up to you to monitor your dog’s activity level as they age and your vet can guide you. For example, your senior may no longer be able to go on runs or hikes but can still enjoy a nice walk. Simple changes can help keep them safe and happy, for example, they may still love to go on car rides but would benefit from a ramp to help protect their joints and back when getting in and out of your vehicle.
German shepherds are very smart and enjoy using their mind. In fact, training and teaching them new things only adds to the quality of their life. Just because they’re getting gray doesn’t mean that they should stop learning new things or having new experiences.
To keep your senior shepherd sharp, try teaching them a new trick or exposing them to new sights and sounds. You will be able to read their body language and if and when your activity is becoming too much for them to handle, just gently back off and let them continue enjoying what they can.
As your dog ages it’s more important than ever to keep those regular vet checkups. Most vets like to see their senior patients twice a year to ensure they are not developing a disease or illness. Checkups are important so that if a serious problem is starting, you can get it managed right away. Don’t skimp on lab work or other tests when you need them.
Immune System Support
A good diet and fresh water are great for the immune system but so are some supplements. As your dog ages, talk to your vet or consult with a specialist about what supplements may benefit your dog as they get older. There are certain supplements that can help aging dogs such joint support, SAMElq, omega oil, digestive enzymes and probiotics. Other herbs and supplements can help certain conditions, such as offering liver and kidney support, etc.
Just like with humans, fresh air is important for their overall health and vitality. The scents and sights from being outside also provide mental stimulation to aging pets. As your pet ages, encourage them to spend some time outside in the fresh air. Fresh air is known to improve mental health, aid in digestion, strengthen the immune system, clear the lungs, and increase energy, all of which is more important than ever for aging dogs.
Dogs also need sunshine, which does more than just warm them up. Sunshine promotes the production of serotonin to improve feelings of well-being and helps chase away feelings of irritability and improves sleep. Sunshine increases the production of subcutaneous oils in the skin to help keep the skin and fur soft and healthy. Sunshine also helps keep the immune system strong and helps to naturally relieve pain.
Although senior dogs can benefit from sun, keep in mind aging German shepherds are more heat sensitive and can easily overheat, dehydrate, or even have a heat stroke or heat exhaustion if they get too hot or spend too much time in the sun. You’ll want to monitor your pet and never leave them outside when you’re away.
Love and companionship
As dogs get older, it’s more important than ever to provide them with plenty of love and companionship. As dogs age, often routines begin to change and they can’t do as much as they once did. For instance, perhaps car rides are no longer an option or a younger dog is taking more time and the senior can’t keep up.
Despite the physical changes, your senior still wants to spend time with you to love and protect you as they have done for years. Honor them by setting aside time each day to groom, pet, play, exercise, and interact with your senior dog.
It is an honor to own a senior dog. A privilege that not everyone gets. Senior German shepherds are very special and still have plenty of loyalty and companionship to give. It is important to care for and protect them until they tell you goodbye.
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