Dr Tammie King, pet behaviour scientist from Waltham Petcare Science Institute, shares some tips on how to care for an older dog as part of the The Adoption Mission by Mars Petcare, in partnership with Woodgreen Pets Charity.
Every dog’s quality of life is extremely important, regardless of their age. As our pets are considered to be members of the family, owners often strive to seek out advice on how they are able to help their dogs live healthier and longer lives, so it is important to consider this preventative approach to pet care.
Teaching an old dog new tricks
Older dogs can definitely learn new tricks and should still be given the opportunity to stimulate their brains through training and play, if they’re keen to participate. Take it slow, and work on things that are gentle on joints, avoiding too many repetitive movements that could be difficult for dogs who may be less mobile than their younger counterparts. Further top tips for exercise and play of dogs of all ages can be found here
It’s really common for a dog’s appetite to change as they get older. If your elderly dog is fit and healthy, you might notice food becoming more important to them as they age. However, just like us humans, as a dog grows older, they tend to require slightly fewer calories as they are generally less active than in their younger years. Most dog foods are based on the different stages of their life. Food specifically made for older dogs is often lower in calories and many have added joint supplements too. We recommend trying the Pedigree Senior Mixed Selection in Jelly Wet Dog Food Pouches, which can aid a balanced diet and includes everything essential to fuel an older dogs’ love of life.
Try scatter feeding
Sprinkling treats or food like Pedigree Tasty Mini Dog Treats in a garden or other grassy area can encourage sniffing and searching. Dogs will do this at their own pace, and it’s an enjoyable exercise for them. Get thrifty, and utilise empty cardboard boxes, flower pots, plastic bottles and egg cartons to increase the challenge to keep them mentally stimulated – this will help keep them on their paws!
Play on: keeping your pooch active
Older dogs don’t need as much intense exercise and can be very happy with slightly shorter, slower walks. If your golden oldie isn’t up to walking the distances they used to, then some quality time doing whatever they enjoy is important. If they like the car, you can still drive to their favourite places and enable them to explore and mooch around before driving home again. Allowing them time to sniff on their daily meanderings is incredibly enriching for them, so be sure to slow down and allow them to smell the roses.
Teething troubles: look after their pearly whites
Just like with humans, years of wear and tear means your dog may have more dental issues from missing teeth to tartar build-up. To keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy, you need to brush them every day, and if your dog isn’t a fan, start giving them dental treats.
As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. It is estimated that one in four older dogs have a tooth fracture, many of which are the result of chewing objects that are too hard. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating. It’s also important to get your dog’s teeth checked regularly as they age to prevent and treat any dental concerns.
Don’t skip vet visits
Regular check-ups are one of the most important things when it comes to caring for all dogs, and become increasingly important as they get older. As your dog ages, their immune system becomes weaker, which makes them more prone to all sorts of ailments. Most vets recommend taking an older dog for regular check-ups every six months, helping them provide the best possible treatment for your dog.