As our labs get older, they require special attention.
Dogs age like people do. Your lab may not be as energetic as before, and he/she may even start to show signs of ageing. As their companions, it’s our responsibility to help them through their golden years and sometimes that’s not a walk in the park.
Some things you might want to know about an ageing dog are listed below.
Signs of old age: Physical
- Greying of muzzle,
- Coarse coat
- Loss of muscle tone
- Overweight or Underweight
- Reduced stamina and strength
- Unable to regulate body temperature efficiently
- Joint stiffness, arthritis
- Higher risk to infection due to reduced immune system
Signs of old age: Mental
- Lowered response to external stimuli (due to level of interest in life, deafness or blindness)
- Finicky with food
- Reduced pain threshold
- Little or no tolerance to change
- Disorientated, senility
Having an elderly dog is taking on the responsibility of the above possibilities. A lot of these problems can easily be managed with the appropriate care. The most important element of care is diet. Other factors such as exercise, bedding needs and checking your dogs teeth, all come into the care of your dog which will need to be tailored for your elderly dog as the problem arises.
Diet and Weight Maintenance
Giving an older dog a good diet, designed with their needs will help prolong their life, thus giving them quality of life at the same time. The diet should consider factors by either preventing the development or the progression of a disease whilst maintaining the animals optimum bodyweight.
Look at the nutritional values on the food you are giving and make comparisons with other brands available. As a rough guide try and meet the following guidelines
Food should be highly digestible (good quality without additives).
- Protein 14 – 21%
- Fat less than 10%
- Fibre less than 4%
- Calcium 0.5 – 0.8%
- Phosphorous 0.4 – 0.7%
- Sodium 0.2 – 0.4%
To keep physical activity at a maximum output for the dogs age range will help to maintain muscle tone and the appropriate bodyweight, which will also then reduce the waste matter. (if fed appropriately – over feeding will result in more faeces and the nutrients being expelled in other ways).
If there are any known diseases – such as kidney failure or calculi in the bladder then specialist diets can be given via advice from the veterinary surgeon.
Elderly dogs do not need a high calorie diet. It is not appropriate to simply reduce the intake of food as this will also be reducing the protein and nutrition. An elderly dog requires a diet which is highly palatable, easily digested, low in protein and low in sodium, increased in essential fatty acids, zinc and also vitamins A, B and E. It is better to feed smaller meals regularly so as to aid the digestive process, consider perhaps feeding three times daily instead of only twice. Moist meals although will encourage better appetite can hinder good dental health so if fed solely on tinned meat then dental hygiene will become more important. However it needs to be noted if the diet is only biscuit/kibble there may come a time when the elderly dog cannot tolerate only dried food as he may be experiencing pain from his teeth when crunching the biscuit. These factors need to be remembered and the diet adjusted as required. There are foods available for older dogs which can be considered if your dog is unable to digest his normal diet or unable to physically eat due to dental issues.
…An overweight elderly dog will be putting unnecessary strain on his joints, vital organs such as his heart, kidneys and liver.
Loss of weight can be caused by something more significant such as kidney or liver failure and some cancers will also cause dramatic weight loss.
NEVER restrict water intake. If your dog is drinking to excess there will be a medical reason for this which needs investigating by your vet.
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Image credit: John Piper