Mature dogs require different care than puppies. If your dog is moving from puppy to mature dog you want to know about caring for an older dog. Here are five ways you can provide better care for your mature dog health.
- The right food
- Potential health issues
- Physical limitations
- Personal care
- Changes that happen to behavior and daily routines
Know the Stages of a Dog’s Life
Everyone gets older and dogs are no exception. Older dogs have different needs than younger dogs.
Dogs mature faster than people. While there are differences in maturation of dogs, the generally accepted stages of a dog’s life are as follows:
- From birth to anywhere from 6 to 18 months. During this time, puppies spend lots of time nursing and playing with their siblings.
- This starts anywhere from 6 to 18 months and lasts till the adolescent reaches 1 to 3 years old. In most cases, small dogs are dogs that mature quickly and complete adolescence sooner than larger dogs. During adolescence, there’s lots of growth spurts and clumsy behavior. Training mature dogs is possible, however, during adolescence is the best time for your dog to get obedience training.
- Adulthood (mature) for a dog begins anywhere from 1 to 3 years old. This begins when the dog reaches a general height and weight typical for an adult dog of their breed. This is a time when dogs mature mentally. At this time, most dogs mature and calm down. Adult dogs need lots of exercise to keep them happy and healthy.
- The age of a senior dog starts at 6 to 10 years old. For most senior dogs, various health issues happen, including loss of stamina, difficulty jumping in the car or on the furniture due to joint pain and vision problems.
According to Reader’s Digest, “dog’s average life expectancy is 8 to 15 years.” It’s important to know that each stage of a dog’s life has different requirements. Here are some things to keep in mind for your mature dog.
The Right Food For a Mature Dog
When a dog reaches 90% of its expected adult weight, it’s considered a mature dog for feeding purposes.
“Adult dogs should be fed either once or twice a day. Use a high-quality commercial dog food… Ensure the diet that you choose is complete and balanced. You can add meat, whether cooked or raw, and vegetables or fish for variety. Choose large, raw, meaty bones. Most importantly, don’t over feed.”RSPCA Pet Insurance
The diet you feed your dog should be designed for the nutritional needs of its age. Check package labels of dog food to make sure you are getting the correct food requirements for your dog.
“Aging dogs need the same nutrients as younger dogs; however, the quantity or the way the nutrients are provided may change.”Michael Hayek, PhD
Research Assistant, specializing in geriatric nutrition
Be careful about giving treats to your mature dog. Treats are very high in calories and low in nutrition. If treats are given freely, there can be too many empty calories to a canine’s diet. Instead of dog treats, consider non-food rewards such as toys and affection. Remember to check your check your pet food store for low calorie treats too.
Health Issues Encountered by Mature Dogs
When dealing with mature dog health there are health risks and health related issues that you need to watch for. As dogs grow older the ability to fend of illnesses declines.
Your veterinarian is an excellent source of guidanceAnnual visits to the vet for a mature dog are recommended. When you visit, make sure that you prepare by having a list of questions and concerns about your dog. This will increase the value of your veterinarian visit.
There are many different issues you can watch for in a mature dog. The following may be indicators of aging or disease.
- A dull, dry coat and flaky skin,
- Joint stiffness,
- Energy loss,
- Weight gain,
- Increased water intake,
- Digestive problems, frequent constipation.
- Other common disease and illnesses found in mature to senior dogs are blindness, deafness, kidney disease, dementia, gum disease and cancer.
“Owners play a crucial role in maintaining their pet’s quality of life as they age. It is our responsibility to watch for signs of declining health and other issues that can come as pets mature. Having baseline health statistics early in a pet’s life can really help Veterinary professionals know the normal ranges for your individual pet. A full blood panel, urinalysis, regular fecal exams and physical exams are key to seeing even slight changes in your pet’s normal ranges and can help identify illnesses effectively.”Melodie A. Cole, RVT
Animal Health Technician
Remember, detecting health issues early gives your mature dog a greater chance to stay active and healthy into their old age.
Personal Care of a Mature Dog
As with younger dogs, mature dogs need grooming. Grooming your dog regularly is an excellent way to show your animal that you care. It helps keep your dog clean and healthy. A well groomed dog looks great too.
Grooming isn’t just brushing your dog, it includes trimming their nails, cleaning their ears and in some cases, eyes and teeth.
During grooming, you can check for abnormalities, including skin problems like ticks, fleas or dry patches. This can help you find problems at an earlier stage before they become more serious.
It helps if you start the grooming process when they are puppies, so that when they become adult dogs, they are comfortable with the grooming process.
How can an owner help a mature or aging dog, once it starts slowing down?
Daily Routine and Behavioural Changes
Adult dogs that are transitioning into older, aging dogs will go through behavioural changes. Many things could be impacted for a dog, including:
- Ability to learn
- Sense of sight
- Sense of hearing
- Sense of smell
Changes begin to happen in sleeping cycles of mature dogs. They become restless at night and sleepy during the day. Their activity level shifts. This can result in a variety of different behaviours, including staring at objects, aimlessly wandering or being more vocal. They can also start taking care of themselves and their appetite can be reduced.
When becoming a senior dog, their memory can be impacted. If this happens, they can forget previously learned commands or habit, including things such as house training and coming when called. Their anxiety levels can increase. Your dog can become more prone to react aggressively. Their social relationships with you and other pets can change too. Some dogs become attached and overdependent. Others become less interested in affection, petting or interaction. Understanding the changes your dog is undergoing can help you compassionately and effectively deal with dog behavior problems that may arise in your dog’s senior years.
As a dog owner, we know that you love your pet and you want the best for them. If you keep in mind your dog’s changing needs as they get older, you can provide better care and help give them a long healthy life.