Like people, old dogs face a lot of health issues as they age. From hearing and sight trouble to lameness in their joints, to upset stomach and irritable bowels, your best friend needs special care in his senior years.
Senior Dog Needs
Nutrition for the Older Dog
It can be really hard watching your pal become finicky with their food. At one time they just about scarfed down anything you’d put in front of them, but now it seems they will walk away from their bowl or eat incredibly slowly. This is quite common in older dogs and the trick is to slowly make some adjustments to what and how they eat. (Mind you, if your senior dog doesn’t seem to be having any food issues then feel free to skip ahead).
If you’ve only fed your dog one or two large meals a day, consider feeding several smaller meals instead. They will most likely have any easier time and you’ll be able to keep track of how much they are eating.
You may wonder when it’s time to switch your canine companion over to the “senior” dog food formula or if you even need to. Feel free to speak with your vet about this, but typically speaking, these senior dog formulas are a bit lower in calories (you can cut back on their regular food if they have gained a bit of weight) and they tend to have small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and chondroitin/glucosamine as added supplements. Often we will need to add even more of these components to support the skin, joints and their metabolism as the dog ages.
Good hydration becomes even more important as your canine companion gets older, because senior pets’ kidneys have lost some ability to clean your dog’s blood of metabolic residue. Older dogs who are eating primarily a dry kibble diet often do not get enough water. It’s important to have fresh, clean water available in several locations throughout your house. If you only have it on one floor and your dog’s joints hurt too much to go up and down stairs, they won’t drink enough in a day.
Old pets are like old people – they just don’t easily handle things they used to be able to. Your dog may have been fairly easy-going when they were younger, but now even something that used to be enjoyable to them – like going for a car ride – can be a source of anxiety.
Some of this inability to handle stress and change is simply the accumulation of a very habitual life. Other factors include a reduction of hormones that combat stress, and changes in their brain, much like dementia in people, that cause confusion and fear where once there was none.
Obesity in Senior Dogs
We spoke a little bit about those older dogs that lose interest in food – usually because their sense of smell has diminished – but let’s talk about those dogs that still scarf down whatever you put in front of them, but they don’t move as much as they used to. It’s common for older dogs to become less active. Maybe you used to go for hour-long walks and now it’s just around the block. Maybe they used to chase the ball for 20 minutes without stopping, and now they’re pretty much done after 3 tosses.
When your senior dog starts to move less you have to make sure to feed them less or they will become overweight easily. And carrying around excess weight on bones and joints that may be riddled with arthritis can be very painful. It may be hard to resist that sweet face and those big brown eyes, but forgoing table scraps and cutting back on their food will keep them trim and healthy.
Encouraging Senior Dog Exercise
Nutrition for the Older Dog
As we just mentioned, as a dog ages, he will naturally become less active, but that doesn’t mean we should just let them sleep all day. If your elderly father wanted to do nothing but sit in front of the TV all day taking naps and watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote, you’d make sure every once in awhile to say, “Pop, come on, we’re taking a walk.”
Well, you have to do the same thing with your furry best friend. Exercise is really important to your dog’s cardiovascular health, mental health, and digestion. The thing to remember is that your senior dog is not the same dog they were four years ago, or even six months ago, so never force them or encourage them to play with that same intensity. Your dog loves you and will do ANYTHING for you, even run two miles when they are tired and in pain. So, don’t overdo it and stop when they begin to tire.
Older Dogs are Prone to Digestive Issues
One of the most common changes your older dog faces is in regards to their digestive system. It becomes less efficient and has more difficulty breaking down foods and absorbing nutrients.
Your dog may become constipated more easily and strain when they go to the bathroom. Most senior dog foods add a bit more bulk or fiber to their meals to alleviate this issue. The fiber will not only help loosen their stools, it will also help them absorb those essential nutrients.
Another common problem with old age in dogs is increased flatulence. Older dogs are gassier dogs. It doesn’t seem to bother them much but it sure can empty a room quickly when company is over. You can help decrease your dog’s gas a few different ways:
- Check to make sure none of their dog foods or treats contain soy, which can be very hard for them to digest.
- Stop feeding them table scraps. I know, I know, they love those bits of pizza crust and waffles but it’s just not good for their gut and it can stir up gas in their digestive tract. It’s not good for them or you. A classic lose/lose.
- Again, make sure your dog is getting moderate exercise as exercise will help move gas and stimulate bowel movements.
- Give your dog a probiotic to help balance the good and bad microbes in their GI tract.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
When dogs get older it becomes easier for things to irritate the lining of their intestines. This in turn causes food to move through them faster. Over time, the irritation causes the lining to become thick and inflamed, and the blood and tissue cells that normally fight bacteria and other invading pathogens accumulate causing cramping, pain and diarrhea. When unhealthy intestinal organisms are allowed to proliferate and displace healthy ones, your dog has an incredibly hard time absorbing any nutrients. The result can be vomiting, loose stools and weight loss.
Probiotic supplements are the best way to rebalance the GI tract and promote your dog’s gut health.
And finally, older dogs can experience either acute (sudden) or chronic pancreatitis. Your dog’s pancreas does the exact same thing as yours: aids in the metabolism of sugar through the production of insulin, and producing pancreatic enzymes which aid in digestion.
There are multiple causes of pancreatitis in old dogs:
- Certain antibiotics, anti-cancer and other medications
- Having increased lipids and calcium in the blood
- Hormonal diseases common in older dogs such as diabetes and Cushing's disease
- Obese and overweight dogs and dogs with high-fat diets
Symptoms of Pancreatitis
Symptoms may be mild or severe and include a tender or painful abdomen, lack of appetite, dehydration, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. If not treated in a timely manner, dogs are at high risk of developing heart arrhythmias, sepsis (body-wide infection), difficulty breathing, and a life-threatening condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which results in multiple hemorrhages.
If the inflammation is severe enough, the organs surrounding your dog’s pancreas can be digested by pancreatic enzymes and become permanently damaged.
You now understand why one of our client’s, Nicole, became really scared when her beloved dog, Bailey, began suffering from chronic pancreatitis. Bailey is a 13-year-old Terrier who sometimes gets hold of food she shouldn’t eat. When she does, she refuses to eat for days and has diarrhea. Nicole said she thought to give Bailey an antacid that is safe for dogs, but Nicole didn’t like the idea of jamming a pill down her sweet pup’s throat every time she got sick.
At one point when Bailey had stopped eating for 3 days and was starting to lose weight, her vet recommended she try FullBucket’s Canine Probiotic Paste to see if that would help. After just one dose of the dog probiotic paste Bailey started eating again.
By day three Nicole had switched Bailey over to FullBucket’s Daily Dog probiotic powder. With a complete formula of digestive enzymes, prebiotics, and natural probiotics for dogs, it is used as a preventative maintenance program.
Bailey was feeling and acting great, and anytime she got into non-dog friendly items, Nicole would break out FullBucket Canine Probiotic Paste and usually Bailey’s GI issues would subside within an hour.
Why GI Health is Important in Any Senior Dog
Your dog's GI tract contains a big portion of their immune system, and it’s here that specialized cells help protect their body against invading organisms, such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses, while recognizing beneficial bacteria.
When an imbalance of the intestinal microflora occurs, such as with IBD, your dog will experience major digestive upset and you will notice:
- Loose stools
- A decrease in their energy levels
- Dehydration and weight loss
- Excessive gas
- Skin issues – itching and a dull coat
Probiotics: A Digestive Tract’s Best Friend
Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that provide a positive effect on the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal disturbances. They are incredibly important to your dog’s health because these friendly strains of bacteria help maintain a healthy balance of “good bugs” in your dog’s gut while keeping the “bad bugs” in check. This balance keeps your dog’s immune system functioning normally. Without this critical balance, your dog is at a much higher risk for developing disease.
The benefits of the right probiotics for dogs can:
- Establish a friendly GI environment for healthy digestion
- Help control skin problems due to yeast
- Support the immune system
- Prevent diarrhea, loose stool, and constipation
- Help reduce stinky breath
- Help eliminate smelly stool and gas (this benefit alone makes probiotics a no-brainer)
- Help regain system balance after taking antibiotics
The Best Probiotic for Dogs
You’ve taken the time to research and read this article so you obviously love your dog(s) very much. And because you love them so much you want to be sure you supplement their diet with the most beneficial probiotic. Not all are made with the absolute best ingredients in the right amounts or the right combination. Make sure you purchase from companies that have done their homework and are willing to share their resources and information with you.
Why FullBucket is Different
Fullbucket starts with the research and then proves out the ingredients with real world testing. We trial our products in animal clinics across the country before we bring a product to market. Veterinary clinics tend to see a wide variety of severe GI issues. We also use the most clinically proven, peer reviewed ingredients available to make our probiotics.
Fullbucket’s formula starts with Saccharomyces boulardii, which is the most peer-reviewed and clinically researched probiotic in the world, and for good reason: this particular strain fights pathogens and bad microbes and is hands-down the safest and most effective form of probiotic because it does not colonize (or take over) your dog’s gut.
Our formula also contains prebiotics. These guys are what feed the good microbes and help them repopulate. So, while the probiotic is kicking the bad microbes’ butt, our prebiotics, which use a unique combination of Mannan-oligosaccharide (don’t even try to pronounce it) feed the good guys, helping them do their job more efficiently.
And finally, we include the enzymes Protease, Amylase, Lipase and Cellulase in the right concentrations to ensure your dog can properly digest the food he eats and absorb all of those nutrients.
When your dog’s gut is optimized with probiotics, all of those big and small things that can cause stress are much easier for his body to handle. And that means less clean ups and medical bills for you. Sadly for your pooch, supplementing with probiotics won’t get him out of his monthly bath.
FullBucket is the first animal healthcare business to deliver a one-for-one philanthropy program. Our number one mission is to give a nutritional supplement product to an animal in need for every product sold. We customize the product for the specific needs of the animals that are receiving them, then hand deliver the product to the people in need.