Shibas are known for getting old. One of the world’s oldest-living dogs was a Shiba named “Pusuke” who passed away at 26 years old in 2011. Usually or for legged friends will get as old as 13-16 years. Learning how to care for your senior dog is crucial if you want it to have a long life.
Eat right, reduce stress, and exercise daily. For years doctors have been prescribing their regimen for a long and healthy human life. But what about the care of dogs?
As a dog ages, it is natural for an owner to want to ease the process. Unfortunately, many people tend to baby their older dog – in ways that can adversely affect their dog’s health.
The following should clear up some misconceptions about the aging process in dogs and give you some useful facts that can help you make your dog’s golden years the best of its life.
Myth: Senior dogs make up only a fraction of the canine population.
Fact: There are 23 million senior dogs just in the United States – dogs that are seven years or older. This comprises 42 percent of the canine population.
Myth: Since change can be difficult for dogs, their diets should not be switched as they get older.
Fact: If your dog has been eating the same food for years and is in good shape and healthy, don’t switch the food. However, senior dogs do tend to become inactive and lose muscle tone. This is a result of the natural process of aging. The best choice in a senior diet formula is one that is easy to chew, highly digestible, lower in calories, provides optimal protein and is nutritionally balanced.
A change in your dog’s diet won’t be stressful if you introduce the new food slowly. The change-over period should take about five to seven days. Start by using three parts old food to one part new food for the first few days. After that, gradually decrease the amount of the old food and increase the amount of new food so that by the last day your dog is eating only the new food.
Myth: A diet high in protein is harmful to older dogs because it causes kidney damage.
Fact: There is no evidence that this is true for dogs. In fact, senior dogs thrive on a diet that contains a 24 to 30 percent level of protein. Dogs are best fed as carnivores and need fat and protein to maintain optimal muscle mass.
Myth: Older dogs don’t need much exercise.
Fact: All dogs need plenty of exercise and this is true of senior dogs as well. Dogs may be a bit sedentary and tire more easily as they become older, but it is still important to maintain a daily exercise routine. An ideal routine for an aging dog consists of a 15-minute walk every day – making sure these walks are slower and shorter than when your dog was younger and more active.
You might notice a change in the amount of rough-house play between you and your dog as you both grow older, but try to keep up with the frolicking – even if it’s at a more moderate pace. Playtime will make you both feel young at heart.
Myth: Older dogs should be fed a diet of soft food because it is so easy to chew.
Fact: Feeding your dog soft food alone will only promote tartar buildup and lead to foul “doggy” breath. Chewing on dry kibble and rawhide is how dogs clean and preserve their strong teeth. Look for a dry food that is easy to chew.
Advances in nutrition and veterinary care have increased the longevity of canine lives. Your dog’s health is dependent on a balance of good nutrition, ample exercise, and regular visits to the veterinarian.