This Ole Dog [The Pet Parenting Guide to Healthy Living for Senior Dogs]
It all goes by so fast. One day you are buying your first dog bed in preparation for bringing your fur baby home, and then the next day you're sitting in your vet's office while she explains it's time to give your baby his first senior dog test. (Yes, there is such a thing!)
Coco just turned fifteen this month and I don't even know how that happened. He has been through some major life changes with me and now suddenly my number one sidekick is struggling with arthritis.
I still remember vividly the day he took off like a rocket on the beaches of Destin, Florida and I thought I had lost my chihuahua puppy forever because I could not catch him. Usain Bolt has absolutely nothing on puppy Coco. Nothing!
If you follow us on Instagram, then you know that Coco gave me a major health scare earlier this year. I woke up to discover him seizing on the floor. Talk about midnight pet emergency panic. (See this previous post for tips on how to prepare yourself for these types of situations.)
Obviously, this led to a series of vet appointments, tests and medications to figure out what happened and how to stablize him. Fortunately, our vet (who we absolutely adore) was able to place him on a temporary treatment plan to get him back to his normal, cranky self.
But the whole ordeal was a huge smack in the face. It made me go into overdrive to make sure I was doing everything I possibly could to help Coco make the most of his senior years.
So here are my absolute musts when it comes to parenting senior dogs.
Watch The Waistline
This tip requires that we start long before our dogs leave puppyhood. Most dogs are total foodies. Heck, I'M a total foodie! But one of the most important things dog mamas can do to promote health retirement years is watch their pup's weight. Little Rolie Polie Olies are adorable cuddle buddies but make for some serious senior problems.
So this means no feeding from the table and watching the treato intake. Paris is a hippopotamus parading as a yorkie. So I have to watch her to make sure she doesn't bump Coco from his bowl and finish his meals. Paris, aka Gloria from Madagascar The Movie, is also all for double breakfasts, linner, triple dinners and snack breaks.
So whether you are raw feeding your dog, using kibble or using natural cooked food brands, the key is to find out the appropriate daily portions for your pooch. I recently switched Paris and Coco to myOllie and I absolutely love the fact that they tell you exactly how many calories your dog is consuming daily. Check out our IGTV Episode on MyOllie for more information.
Studies have shown that, just like in humans, obesity in dogs can lead to quite a few issues; which only compound with age. So look to keep your dog's weight within the ideal range.
Like Coco, many dogs struggle with arthritis as they get older. As in people, arthritis in dogs is caused by the inflammation of joints which can cause pain and stiffness. And it often worsens with age.
Some breeds, especially toy breeds, can also be prone to other types of joint or hip issues as they age. To help curb these conditions, pet parents should look to make sure even their young dogs don't overdue it.
For example, chihuahuas and yorkies should not be allowed to jump off of large furniture -- even in their younger years. Constantly launching themselves off of couches or other large pieces of furniture causes unnecessary wear and tear on joints which can come back to haunt them later.
It's for this reason, as well as the occasional broken limb or torn ligament, that vets recommend puppy ramps when you raise small dogs.
Another way to help your dog gracefully ease into old age is to start them on doggy supplements while they are young. Fish oil which has been especially formulated for dogs can aid joints as well as promote healthy hearts and slow the progression of kidney disease.
For more information regarding the benefits of fish oil for dogs, check out this post by the American Kennel Club.
In addition to fish oil, I personally use Dasuquin Soft Chews For Small Dogs (which you can buy on Amazon) for both Paris and Coco. These soft chew treats help with joint health. And since the dogs love them, they are super easy to administer daily during treat o'clock.
Above all, be sure to stick close to your vet over the years and get regular check ups. Doing so will help both you and your pet enjoy their golden years.
Eventually all of our fur babies will age into fur seniors. On average large dog breeds are considered seniors by around 5 to 7 years old. While toy breeds like chihuahuas and yorkies tend to reach their retirement age somewhere closer to 6 to 8.
As this post highlights, keeping your dog happy and healthy in their old age starts long before they enter adulthood. So start young. Natural diets, exercise, organic supplements and regular vet visits keep senior dogs happy...and dog moms too.