Caring for senior dogs isn’t really difficult. Senior dogs may require different care compared to middle-aged dogs and puppies but it’s not that hard.
But when are dogs considered senior? According to veterinarians, a dog is considered a senior when he or she turns seven years old. During this life stage, the body and its organs may function in less efficient way. That’s why senior dogs need healthier lifestyles to improve their well-being and help them live longer.
Like puppies, senior dogs need special care and nutrition. That’s why there are special diets formulated for them. But aside from diet, there are also other things you should change and take note of when caring for senior dogs. If you own a senior German Shepherd or are planning on adopting one, the tips we’ll give you should help keep your senior German Shepherd or future German Shepherd stay strong, healthy, and happy.
1. When caring for senior dogs, a change in his or her diet may be necessary.
As your German Shepherd ages, his or her body’s needs change. The organs are also more susceptible to diseases and some food ingredients may contribute to their degeneration. You may consult your veterinarian about specialized dog foods that can help your senior German Shepherd improve or maintain his or her cognitive health and activity levels. Changing your senior German Shepherd’s diet may be necessary because, at the age of 7, the glucose metabolism in their brain starts to change in different ways. This change may affect your senior’s awareness, memory, learning, or decision making.
Also, like all dogs, German Shepherds’ activity levels mellow down as they age. This means that a diet for regular dogs, which are often high in calories, can contribute to weight gain or obesity since they cannot burn those calories in the same way they could when they were younger.
2. Getting your German Shepherd a companion dog may be a good idea.
When your German Shepherd grows older, his or her energy level drops. If he or she is alone most of the day, he or she will most likely sleep the day off. Getting a younger pup can encourage your senior dog to move more and become a little more active. Puppies, their spirit, and their energy can be very contagious – and they may just help cheer your old German Shepherd up! There’s even a study that shows that pets with younger housemates tend to live longer and have lesser health problems.
3. Exercise your old German Shepherd
Since older dogs can get fat easily, exercise is still a must. By giving your German Shepherd adequate exercise, you are helping him get fit and feel better.
4. Keep a senior dog diary
Keeping a diary and taking notes of your senior German Shepherd’s change in behavior, diet, bowel movements, and more is a good idea. This way you can give your veterinarian detailed information about your German Shepherd’s everyday life. These pieces of information may be helpful in the future.
Some changes in your German Shepherd’s behavior, bowel, movements and more can be caused by serious health issues other than aging. Do make the mistake of assuming that the changes in your German Shepherd’s behavior are merely because of age. Change in personality, accidents (potty), hair loss, sudden weight change, or pain can be signs of metabolic problems such as arthritis diabetes, hyper- or hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, or Addison’s disease. Some changes can also be signs of brain aging, dental disease and others.
If you see any unusual changes in your German Shepherd, a trip to the veterinarian is a must.
5. Make your home Old-Dog-Proof
Old dogs can be sluggish and arthritic.They can trip on random things so keeping your house clutter-free will help your German Shepherd get around easier.
If you can, build ramps for your senior German Shepherd to give him or her easy access to the couch or bed. A ramp on the stairs should make climbing up easier and less painful for dogs suffering from arthritis. Putting carpet on the floor should also help with your German Shepherd’s grip.
6. Spoil your Senior German Shepherd
But not with food! Senior dogs deserve all the love they can get. After so many years of unconditional love, how can you not give your German Shepherd everything? Try taking your senior to the beach, treating him or her to dog massages or even road trips!
7. Have your senior German Shepherd checked by the vet at least twice a year
Taking your German Shepherd to veterinarian twice a year – even if he or she does not appear sick – is important. Veterinarians often recommend that senior dogs be examined and have their blood tested to know if they have underlying health problems which do not show physically. Liver and kidney values are often checked to determine whether these organs are functioning well or not. In some diseases, early diagnosis is key, that’s why having your German Shepherd undergo these tests is a good idea to know if he or she is healthy or needs treatment.
If you own an old German Shepherd, you are very lucky to have received such tremendous love and loyalty for such a long time.