There is no specific age when dogs become ‘old’.
Generally speaking they start to show signs of aging in the last third of their life span. Large breeds with shorter life spans age earlier than small breeds with longer life expectancies. At the London Veterinary Clinic we recommend that we carry out an elective health check-up as early as seven years old in some individuals and not until over ten in others. In 98 percent of these preventative inspections we find no hidden problems but in the remaining two percent, blood tests reveal that kidney or liver function or intestinal absorption is inefficient. Aging is not an illness but loss of homeostasis can develop into clinical disease. The effects of natural aging or one of the specific health problems to which older dogs are susceptible may demand subtle modifications to the existing diet. As dogs mature some individuals gain weight. This often occurs because the energy we supply them, in the form of food, is not being used up through exercise. Sometimes this weight gain is caused by an underactive thyroid gland. If your elderly dog is gaining or losing weight make sure it has a clean bill of health before adjusting its diet.
Older dogs have varying needs. Most thrive on their adult maintenance diet simply reduced slightly in quantity and augmented with extra vitamins and minerals. “Senior” diets from reputable manufacturers contain high quality, easily digested nutrients and extra antioxidants to help aging immune systems. These diets usually contain extra nutrients for skin and gut health. Overweight elderlies should be slimmed very gradually while underweight seniors or those recovering from illness benefit from increased energy food. We have a variety of ‘senior’ diets, available directly from the clinic or by home delivery through our on-line shop.
If your aging dog is picky with its food it probably isn’t being difficult on purpose. Gum disease, deteriorating teeth, diminished taste or smell or underlying disease are common causes of finicky eating. We will help and in the meantime follow a simple, natural rule when trying to encourage your elderly dog to eat. Warm its food up. Warmth enhances flavour and releases natural aromas, the most powerful trigger to stimulate a dog to eat.