What does the geriatric stage cover?
A geriatric dog is one that has simply reached old age. A dog is considered senior when she reaches about 25 percent of the life expectancy so a dog with an average life span of 10 to 13 years would be considered senior at about seven and a half. However, as she ages even more, and once she reaches about nine years, she’s considered geriatric.
At that point, all health and nutrition should focus on prevention.
Here are some things you’ll need to keep in mind:
• Feed her smaller portions: First, she just may not have the appetite she had as a younger dog. Second, older dogs have much lowered metabolic and activity rates than the younger dog, so weight gain is a real concern. Extra weight on a geriatric dog can result in health problems, especially in its bones and joints. Special pet foods for older dogs are available that contain fewer calories but promote a feeling of fullness. The healthier you keep her weight level, the less risk she’ll have for some chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems and arthritis.
• Keep it tooth-friendly: One of the common ailments of older dogs is deterioration of the teeth. The hard kibble they have been eating their entire life may now seem difficult or painful to chew.
If your dog is having trouble eating dry food, add some broth or water to the kibble to make it softer and easier to eat, or switch to a wet food or one with smaller pieces.
• Increase fiber, probiotics and digestive enzymes: Older dogs tend to get more easily constipated and suffer from GI problems. Add fiber or some small pieces of vegetables and fruit to her regular food to add fiber; a probiotic will also boost the immune system–70 percent of that system is located in the gut– and digestive enzymes will aid the GI tract.
• Add appealing odors. One of the reasons for your geriatric dog’s lack of appetite may be that her sense of smell is diminishing. On top of that, she may also be visually challenged. If you feed wet food, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to bring out tempting odors or add special dog gravies.