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Boost the vitality of your senior dog

We get wiser as we get older, but we often find we can no longer do the things we could do when we were younger. But getting older doesn’t mean you can’t live a life full of vitality. And the same goes for your dog! Vitality is the sign of health and energy in your pet, at every age, but especially when he’s getting older. With love and support you can help your senior dog enjoy all that life can bring.

Here we’ll look at a few strategies, from nutrition to physical exercise, that can help him continue to live life to the full.

Firstly though, let’s look at when your dog would be considered a senior dog.

When is my dog considered to be a senior dog?

Dogs do not all have the same life expectancy and therefore do not age at the same speed. Your dog’s breed and size will determine when they are considered to be a senior dog.

Small dogs generally live longer than bigger dogs and are therefore considered to be senior at a later stage in their life. A small dog like a Yorkshire Terrier is considered to be an adult by the time they are 12 months, but not a senior dog until they are around ten years old1.

Conversely, a large dog like a Great Dane is considered to be an adult at two years, and senior by the time he is five or six.

In short, bigger dogs become adults later, but age much more quickly than small dogs. If you have a larger dog, pay particular attention to any drop in vitality, it may be the first sign of ageing in your pet. He may get quieter and calmer, be less demanding, and might sleep more. You might also notice some grey hair beginning to show. At this point he is also much more likely to gain weight.

Regardless of his age and breed, your dog is a unique animal who will age in his own unique way. Like humans, some dogs will still be very fit and active well into their later years, while some will become more sedentary earlier in their life. Keep an eye on your dog for signs of old age. A drop in vitality may also be a sign of chronic disease, so if in doubt, always consult with your vet.

Nutrition is the key to aging dogs’ vitality

Support for vitality is a key element of any complete and balanced senior dog food and this support can be provided in a number of ways.

Firstly, as your dog ages his metabolism naturally slows down, and this process can make maintaining his correct weight more of a challenge. Dog food with added nutrients like L-Carnitine have been shown to help with fat metabolism and keeping dogs at their optimum weight and body condition.

Secondly, joint mobility can be an issue for senior dogs, particularly large ones. Added nutrients such as Glucosamine have been shown to help support joint mobility. Glucosamine forms part of the cartilage and lubricant of your dog’s joints. Combined with an optimum weight, added Glucosamine will help keep your senior dog more active and more able to play and go on walks, which in-turn, will encourage his vitality.

Thirdly, supporting heart health, with added nutrients like taurine and Vitamin E, can help add to his vibrancy. A healthy heart ensures good blood circulation and is important for all the essential bodily functions of your dog.

Diet, in conjunction with vaccinations, can also have a big influence on your dog’s natural defences and help keep him healthy. Natural defences are a complex system that helps keep him strong and healthy as he goes out into the world.

Certain nutrients – namely antioxidants – have been shown to support a dog’s natural defences (National Research Council, 2006; Koelsch & Smith, 2001). Vitamin E, manganese and zinc are examples of naturally occurring antioxidants that can be found in high-quality dog food, and that can help support your dog’s natural defences as he gets older.

A healthy skin and coat is also a major factor in your dog’s natural defences. It is his first natural barrier against external elements. Research has shown that a diet containing Omega-6 fatty acids and zinc can help to support a healthy skin and coat.

Another way nutrition can help is by directly supporting vitality with added Vitamin B and iron. B-vitamins are important for many key functions in the body, including those associated with energy generation, amino acid metabolism and DNA synthesis. Iron is a key part of enzymes and

haemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen around the body.

Tips to support the vitality of your senior dog with Perfect Fit

READ MORE

Don’t forget regular physical exercise

Although he might be slowing down and may not be able to go on long runs with you or play for hours in the park, physical exercise still has an important role to play in keeping your senior dog happy and energetic.

Physical activity increases heart health, due to the increased circulation, and also helps with weight management, keeping him slimmer and fitter. It aids digestion (as increased circulation helps keep the digestive system functioning properly) and it promotes urination, which helps keep the urinary tract healthy and clear. A good workout can also encourage rest and deeper sleep, which helps the body repair.

The key to exercising your senior dog is being able to adapt to his needs. As dogs age they find it harder to regulate their body temperature (due to the slowing of their metabolism). You may notice your dog is much more sensitive to extreme temperatures. As a result it’s a good idea to exercise your dog in cooler hours in warmer weather (early mornings or late evenings), and generally to take them on shorter, slower walks. Also, pay close attention to his level of hydration. Make sure he always has access to fresh, clean water and encourage him to drink, particularly after exercise or in warmer weather.

Don’t forget play time and new games to stimulate him!

The sheer act of play can be a great vitality boost for healthy senior dogs. Some form of a game, and interaction with you, are two of his favourite things put together! It can be a simple as a play in the back garden or a simple game of fetch, whatever it is it will add to his sense of wonder and lust for life.

In addition to physical games, stimulating mental activities can also play an important role in keeping your dog happy and healthy. In particular, try focussing on games which stimulate his sense of smell and hearing.

As your dog ages you might also consider adopting another animal or a puppy. The boundless energy of a younger animal can rub off on some older dogs and help keep them young and vibrant.

Keeping your dog active and enjoying the wisdom of older age

Your senior dog may be getting older, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy life to the full. With love and support, and careful consideration of his changing needs, he will still be able to enjoy physical activity, social interaction, play, mealtimes and everything else that life can bring.

And with his older age comes the serenity and wisdom of his years. He may move a bit slower, but you’ll probably notice that you become even closer with a deeper bond, as he gets older.

Keeping him active, playing with him, savouring that bond, and choosing a complete and balanced food tailored to his age, size and lifestyle will help to make his senior years enjoyable, fun and full of vitality.