Watching your beloved dog grow up is a marvelous thing—from its playful puppy years, to its loyal adult years, and finally, to its senior years. Older dogs, typically aged seven or older, are considered “senior” dogs. At this point in their life, senior dogs will have changed dramatically both inside and out, and it’s our job as pet owners to cater to these changes.
Understanding age-related changes
One of the most crucial changes you’ll need to be aware of is your dog’s change in necessary nutrition. Puppies and senior dogs don’t need the same things in their food. In fact, senior dogs will require a lot more nutrients to aid them in their older years, as illnesses and ailments such as arthritis tend to set in and they aren’t able to digest food and get nutrients as easily.
There are many food brands on the market designed for older dogs—these are typically jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients for your aging pup. However, you may want to keep your dog on the same food it knows and loves, while providing more natural alternatives or have greater control of the nutrients it gets. In this case, you should consider adding supplements to your dog’s diet.
Supplements worth considering
To keep your older pooch happy and healthy over the years, consider these five important supplements.
- Essential fatty acids (EFAs): Essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are, quite literally, essential for older dogs for a few different reasons. These oils are known to make dog’s coats shine, but there are far more health benefits to them. They are able to help with arthritis by reducing inflammation. Additionally, they’re known to improve cognitive function in dogs with declining memory. Unfortunately, dogs don’t produce these fatty acids naturally, so they must be provided in food or as a supplement.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin: Two supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin, are well-known to aid dogs that suffer from osteoarthritis. The compounds are naturally found in healthy cartilage, protecting the joints from shock and wear. As the cartilage degenerates, you can help promote regeneration and decrease inflammation by providing glucosamine and help lubricate the joints through chondroitin.
- Probiotics: Probiotics replace the healthy bacteria in your dog’s digestive system that might be killed off due to other medical issues. This helps promote regular and healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients. Additionally, they help boost the immune system, since 80 percent of a dog’s immune health is located in the digestive system. This prevents diseases and infections in weaker, older dogs.
- Vitamin C: Supplements with antioxidant properties such as Vitamin C are known to improve memory and cognitive abilities in aging dogs that may struggle with a lack of brain function. You can give your dog Vitamin C through supplements or through people food like berries—just be sure to check which foods are dog-safe before you give them.
- Botanical oils: Recent studies have shown that botanical oils are able to help support a dog’s cognitive abilities by being a supplemental source of energy to glucose. Without proper energy sources, your dog’s memory and awareness may be impaired. Many oils are now incorporated into pet food formulas.
Things to know before providing supplements
Supplements can be extremely helpful in bringing your senior dog into old age gracefully, but there are some things you should know before you start dishing them out daily.
First, always speak with a veterinarian before providing supplements or a new type of food to your dog. The vet will be able to explain the uses of each supplement, the adequate dosages and whether your dog would benefit or not. They may also suggest a particular type of food based on your pet’s health and medical history, instead.
Second, always give the amount of each supplement indicated on the packaging. Under-dosing your dog will have little to no effect on its health, which means you’ll be wasting money with few results. Over-dosing can cause serious health problems in your dogs, as some supplements are only okay for pets in moderation.
Third, know that supplements are only one aspect of a multi-layered treatment regimen for senior dogs. When your pooch ages, it will need regular mental and physical exercise, close monitoring for health issues and a healthy food diet outside of the supplements to stay happy and healthy.
If you are concerned or unsure of your pet’s health as it ages, take it to the vet and have a discussion about what you should be doing to care for it and mitigate health problems early on.