Surveys have shown that there are now far more older dogs in proportion to the total pet population than there were 10 years ago. Advances in veterinary medicine, the prevention of serious life-threatening diseases and improved pet care including the feeding of healthy balanced diets, have led to our dogs living longer, active and healthy lives.

It is difficult to define exactly when your dog can be classified as ‘senior’, since there is a variation in the life expectancy of different breeds. Generally, medium and small sized breeds tend to live longest, with some breeds living to 17 or 18 years of age. Giant breeds, however, tend to have a much shorter life expectancy, often only living for 7 and 8 years. On this basis, it is best to define a senior dog as one who is in the final third of his anticipated lifespan. A small to medium sized dog is therefore considered to be senior from 8 years of age, whereas a giant dog, such as the Great Dane, is senior from only 5 years on.

As your dog gets older he will gradually become less active. Studies have shown that calorie requirements for senior dogs decrease on average by 20%. You will therefore need to keep an eye on his weight development and, if necessary, cut down his food ration to keep him at his optimum weight. Alternatively, you can feed a diet specifically designed for senior or inactive dogs, which addresses the recommended lower calorie intake. Weight control is especially important in the elderly dog, since a fat body will put more strain on the heart and lungs and also on the muscles and joints, and make him inactive. This can lead to a vicious cycle of weight gain and inactivity, and can predispose your dog to obesity.

There are a number of medical conditions which senior dogs are more prone to, such as obesity, kidney disease, arthritis and heart failure. In many of these diseases, dietary management plays a crucial role in the overall treatment of the patient. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on a suitable diet for your dog.

Water should always be available for your dog – you should keep an eye on the quantity he drinks and seek medical attention if this increases suddenly, as this could signify the onset of a medical condition, such as kidney disease or diabetes mellitus.

Some old dogs may be a little arthritic in the neck and will have difficulty in bending down to eat. If this is the case, the food bowl should be raised off the floor at a comfortable height or placed on a step.

Dental problems are regularly seen in older dogs and often lead to oral pain and tooth loss. This needs to be treated by a veterinarian, but to help your dog to eat, it may be necessary to offer foods which are finely chopped, moistened or consist of specifically developed kibbles which break more easily.

We recommend and feed all our Dobermanns on Royal Canin Formulas

This information is referenced from the Waltham website which can be located at www.waltham.com

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