22 November 2021
Some dogs are considered seniors as early as 5 years old depending on their breed. As a rule of thumb, small breed dogs are considered senior at around 11, medium breed dogs at 10, large breed dogs at 8 and giant breed dogs anywhere from 5 to 7 years old. Adopting a senior dog can have both its advantages and disadvantages which is why Nutrience reached out to Animatch to get their expert opinion on the subject. We also highlight the nutritional requirements of a senior dog to prepare all future adopters with the tools and knowledge they need to enjoy a long and happy life with their senior adoptees.
A statement from Gina, Animatch
“Over the years I have adopted and fostered dogs of all ages, from puppies born right in front of me to seniors that just needed a retirement home. It is these seniors that have a special place in my heart. They come into my house, find my couch, and make themselves at home. They are just happy to be in a warm, comfy and safe place. Senior pups are great cuddlers and don’t need to play fetch for hours before taking their next nap. When I get home from work, they are always so excited to see me. There are wet kisses, some dancing and lots of running around in the yard. Then it’s time for a nap and I have a chance to get some things done around the house.
The walks are slower and so peaceful. Other dogs and even squirrels are not a big distraction. There is nothing better for my mental health than going on a walk with my dogs after a crazy day at work.
Teaching them new commands, house rules and tricks is no different from younger dogs. Once you know what motivates them (squeaky toys or food) you can teach them anything. And just like any younger dog, they will decide to listen or just ignore you completely. These seniors have been around the block, so baths, grooming, nail trimmings and doing their business outside is not new to them.”
A statement from Maryse, Animatch
“These years are truly ‘golden years’ for a senior dog. Puppies are incredibly cute, but ask anyone who’s had one and they’ll tell you they’re a lot of work. Seniors are wise beyond their years. You won’t have to exercise a senior dog quite as much as a young dog. They have usually had their basic training, so they know how to sit, lay down, come, relax and do their business outside. Not to say that all they want is to be a ‘Couch Potato’. Every dog needs exercise and stimulation and this is as important for an older one.
Aside from my first two dogs growing old with us, I had the privilege of adopting my first senior dog at 14-1/2 years of age. She belonged to a lady who did not walk her much, but instead let her out in the backyard. It didn’t take long for this little senior girl to get used to our hour-long walks in the woods. She was able to run free off leash and enjoy the smells and stimulation of the great outdoors. I have taken her to various training courses (basic obedience, fitness, agility and scent detection) and she has surprised the instructors with her zest for learning and life. She was also a member of the Pet Squad at the airport comforting travelers during their long waits. She is now 17 and has not had any serious medical conditions until recently. She is in stage 2 renal failure and wears a diaper in the house. But she still enjoys her three walks a day with the pack and nobody realizes she is a senior. She certainly doesn’t!
I foster dogs that need to experience a home environment and learn from my pack what it takes to become a good family pet. One of our recent foster dogs fit in so well with our pack that we adopted him at the age of 10 with a grade 4 heart murmur. He is asymptomatic and on medication to help his heart contract. He is both a great comfort to us and to our other senior dog. They are a dynamic duo, and we often find them together.
Consider adding a senior dog to your pack. They have a lot to teach your other dogs. And think of the joy that dog will bring to you and the security and peace that they will enjoy in your home during their golden years.”
With all the wonderful loving senior dogs out there, why aren’t more people adopting them? According to Animatch, adopters are afraid of a few potential risks. The first being that you may only have a few years with your senior pet. The average lifespan of a large dog is 12 years, while smaller dogs can enjoy very active lives until the age of 16. Dogs may be considered seniors at eight, but let’s face it, that’s still a lot of years to enjoy together!
Furthermore, some elderly dogs require more medical attention than younger dogs. Dental, hip and joint care are some of the most important things to maintain to ensure your senior dog has a high quality of life and stays active and fit well into their senior years.
As dogs age, their nutritional requirements change. With age, their metabolism slows, and they become prone to weight gain more easily. This is why a dog food specifically formulated to meet the changing needs of senior dogs is important. Senior dog foods are generally lower in calories and total fat. Excess energy, especially in the form of fat can lead to obesity and buildup of fat deposits within the arteries. Additionally, diets that are higher in fiber may help with weight management in senior dogs. High-quality diets that are highly digestible are also important for the senior pet, whose digestive system may also be declining and have more difficulty extracting and utilizing nutrients from a low-quality diet. Moderate, but adequate protein is a particularly important nutrient to look for, as senior dogs still need sufficient protein to maintain their lean body mass, but excessive protein is unnecessary.
Two supplements to look out for that are especially important for senior dogs are chondroitin and glucosamine which offer hip and joint protection. Nutrience SubZero formulas for dogs are rich in both chondroitin and glucosamine. Likewise, a diet rich in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that comes from ingredients such as salmon oil, such as the Nutrience Infusion Healthy Senior dog food, may play a role in fighting against cognitive losses. Additionally, coconut oil can be used to provide a readily available source of energy for the brain to benefit cognitive function.
A fun trick to encourage your senior dog to enjoy mealtime is to combine their kibble with canned food which increases palatability, helps keep them hydrated, and is an easy way to introduce variety in your dog’s everyday diet.
It is important to note that all pet parents should consult with a veterinarian for professional diagnosis and treatment of their pets. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist.