SENIOR HEALTH: Caring for your aging pup
We all get older, and the same is true for our beloved dogs. All pet parents inevitably have to adapt to the needs of their pups as they advance in years, and our team at v-dog has created this resource to help you tend to your furry friend far into the future.
When it comes to diet, a plant-based kibble is a great option for senior dogs. Seniors are more prone to health problems like joint pain, arthritis, obesity, and strain on internal organs. The fact is that a plant-based diet (that’s complete, balanced, and AAFCO-approved like v-dog) is naturally anti-inflammatory, easily digestible, and overall gentler on your older pup's system than its meat-based counterpart.
Think it's too late in your dog's life to change up their diet? Think again! Many senior dogs see drastic improvements in their mobility, energy levels, and quality of life after making the switch. Check out what many of our customers with senior dogs have to say on our testimonials page. Many vegan dogs actually live into their twenties on v-dog, and Bramble, one of the oldest dogs in history (according to Guinness Record Book) who lived to be 27 years old was fed a vegan diet her whole life!.
Most Common Ailments of Senior Dogs
All dogs--whether eating a plant-based kibble or one with animal products--start to suffer from some common troubles as they get older, especially when they reach their senior years, and we’ve provided some helpful aids here so that you can maximize your dog’s quality of life and keep your canine youngsters in prime condition for years to come.
Joint Pain and Arthritis
Many dogs will develop joint pain or even develop arthritis as they get older, and it’s your responsibility to recognize these symptoms and ease your dog's discomfort. You may notice that your pup starts limping one day, favoring certain sides of their body, or refraining from jumping in the bed anymore. As your dog ages, years of wear and tear to joint cartilage may cause these issues, and because such ailments usually result in aches and pains, your dog may not sleep as soundly as they should, which may in turn aggravate or worsen their symptoms.
However, you can take some easy steps to adjust your environment so that your furry friend doesn’t feel left out of the mix. Many people install ramps in their houses so that their dogs can climb on the couch or bed without straining themselves. You can also invest in rubber grips that help prevent your dog from slipping on slick floors. Dog boots will also protect your pup’s sensitive paws from ice, hot cement, and jagged debris.
To promote healthy joints and maintain active lifestyles, many also choose to add supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM to the meals that their dogs eat. So too, you can also transition your dog to a vegan diet, which is naturally anti-inflammatory. That means that this easy swap in their diet could significantly reduce your furry friend’s joint pain, diminish their arthritis symptoms, and improve their overall health.
Of course, we always recommend you consult your vet if you notice any notable changes in your dog’s behavior and their energy level. Make sure you also tell your veterinarian about your dog’s mobility and activity at home. This will help them detect early signs of orthopedic disease and arthritis. However, with some of the simple lifestyle adjustments outlined here, you should be able to share countless adventures with your senior pup for years to come.
Infections and Allergic Reactions
People usually notice the telltale signs of allergies in their dogs before their senior years, but it is not uncommon for itching, redness, and inflamed skin to develop later in life. And if your dog already struggles with allergic breakouts on their skin, they may begin to experience more flare-ups as they get older.
So too, senior dogs experience urinary tract infections (UTIs) and recurrent ear infections (often due to hypothyroidism) much more frequently than their younger counterparts. Allergic reactions can make your loveable companion miserable, and they can surface at any time; however, luckily, it’s never too late to get them under control!
As your pup ages, their stomach might also become more sensitive, and their allergies might also become more severe, so you may want to consider eliminating the most common food allergens (corn, wheat, soy, and many animal proteins) before they ever become a problem. You can consult our health page on allergies to learn how to manage your dog’s allergies and minimize their symptoms by switching to v-dog.
Weight Management and Digestion Issues
Aging means slowing down--for humans and for dogs. As your dog becomes more sedentary, it’s important to make sure they’re eating a balanced and nutritionally complete food like v-dog. Without the proper nutrition, you might see your senior dog gain some extra weight, which will affect their energy levels, their potential joint pain and ease of mobility, their sleep cycle, and their motivation to participate in the activities you used to do together (e.g., walks, hikes, fetch, etc.). Essentially, it’s a vicious cycle, one that you’ll need to disrupt in order to help your dog maintain their overall well-being.
It’s natural if your senior dog gains a few pounds. They deserve to relax after all. However, if your dog starts to carry too much excess weight, they become more prone to developing illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer. Don’t fret though. Just make sure that you’re giving your furry friend the opportunity to safely exercise and also that you’re providing them with nutritious and balanced food with the correct amount of daily calories.
Senior dogs can also start having accidents as the muscles controlling the bladder weaken and their stomachs become more sensitive to certain allergens; however, if you notice gastrointestinal problems in your dog (e.g., vomiting or diarrhea) that don’t clear up quickly, we recommend you talk to your local veterinarian as soon as possible. In fact, your vet should continue to perform thorough physical exams on your senior dog, checking their body and muscle condition, skin, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, heart, lungs, gastrointestinal system, urinary system, brain, nerves, bones, joints, and lymph nodes.
Your vet may also run senior blood work and report on specific nutrient levels. Senior dogs can often develop individual deficiencies, and with some insight into your dog’s lab work, you’ll be better able to decide to supplement your dog’s diet with certain nutrients if necessary. All in all, with a little observation and persistence, you can help alleviate any of the struggles your senior dog might encounter later in life.
Diabetes and Kidney Function
Many dogs can develop problems with their kidneys later in life, and while these issues tend to have no cure, people can often manage severe symptoms with proper treatment, increasing their longevity and improving their quality of life. That’s why it’s so important for older dogs to check in regularly with their veterinarians. Routine senior blood work can detect any of the markers for kidney problems early on, which means a much more management treatment plan for your furry friend.
Diabetes is another chronic condition that can affect senior dogs, and although diabetes has no cure, you can successfully manage this illness in your dog with exercise, diet, and perhaps injections. If you notice that your older pup is suffering from excessive thirst, increased urination, weight loss, and/or a dramatic uptick in (or loss of) their appetite, we recommend you consult your vet right away as these signs could point to the early stages of diabetes, which can lead to serious complications if left unchecked (e.g., blindness, UTIs, seizures, kidney failure, etc.).
Unfortunately, certain studies suggest that some breeds of dog are genetically predisposed to developing diabetes, but other factors can also contribute to the emergence of this illness, age being one of the prime qualifiers. Another major component that increases your dog’s risk of diabetes is their weight. Obesity can contribute to insulin resistance, which is a clear risk factor for pancreatitis and can in turn lead to diabetes. This is all the more reason to make sure that you feed your dog a balanced and healthy diet throughout their adulthood.
Proper nutrition and regular exercise is undeniably important to the health of your dog’s kidneys and blood sugar levels, especially as they reach senior status, and like many others, you might be nervous switching your dog with kidney problems or diabetes; however, numerous people have reported increased energy levels and improvement in kidney functions after switching to v-dog. Usually, any formula for a dog with diabetes should include a quality source of protein as well as a fair amount of fiber and complex carbohydrates that will help to slow absorption of glucose. You can read more about the benefits of a plant-based diet for diabetic dogs here.
If your canine companion is diagnosed with diabetes, don’t panic. With good veterinary support and the proper education about your dog’s diagnosis, you should be able to provide the right care so that you both enjoy many happy years together.
Hearing and Vision Loss
Just as in humans, the older your dog gets, the more they’ll suffer from the effects of aging, including some loss of hearing and vision. Senior dogs are also prone to developing cataracts, a cloudy layer that forms over the lens of the eye and compromises eyesight. Though dogs mostly rely on smell to navigate their environment, if any of their other senses are weakened, you can expect your furry friend to suffer from some disorientation and frustration. To protect all your dog’s senses from deterioration, you can continue to feed them a balanced diet, supplement their meals with extra nutrients (if recommended by your vet), and also clean their ears on a consistent basis, especially if they’re prone to infections.
Many dogs suffer from many tooth-related problems, especially seniors. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes that they should take care of their dog’s mouth until these health concerns become severe and chronic. It’s important that you practice the proper home care and schedule regular dental examinations with your veterinarian to arrest the development of these health issues.
Periodontal diseases can lead to chronic pain, infection, and a poor quality of life, and if your senior dog is already struggling with other age-related conditions, this added strain can make their life miserable. Costly and potentially dangerous dental procedures (plaque removal, tooth excising, among others) may help manage your canine companion’s discomfort, but it’s far better to be proactive about the health of their mouth so that they never develop any of these complications.
Check out v-dog’s recommendations for the management of your dog’s dental health to develop a routine that works for both you and your furry friend. You can also pick up v-dog's breathbones to help with your pup's oral hygiene.
It’s not easy getting older, and just like humans, dogs slow down and develop those undeniable signs of aging. However, now that you have this information, you can look out for the classic symptoms of discomfort in your dog and make adjustments in their diet and lifestyle in order to relieve their aches, improve their energy levels, optimize their overall health, and boost their longevity far into the golden years.