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Caring For Your Old Labrador as Your Dog Ages
Senior Labradors require special attention and care as they age to maintain their well-being and quality of life.
It's essential to create a personalized care plan with the help of a vet to ensure your senior dog stays happy and healthy.
Is My Labrador Retriever Getting Old?
As Labradors age, their behavior and physical appearance may change in ways that indicate they are getting older.
Common signs of aging to look out for include decreased energy levels, gray hair, weight gain or loss, or joint stiffness.
Other changes, like hearing loss and altered sleeping patterns, can also occur with age - if any of these symptoms present themselves in your aging Labrador Retriever, it is recommended you take them to the vet for a professional diagnosis and course of care.
How Long Do Labradors Live?
On average, a healthy Labrador can expect to live anywhere from 10 to 14 years.
That's a long time to share belly rubs, ball fetching, and snuggles on the couch with your furry best friend!
While no one can predict precisely how long a dog will live, providing them with proper care, nutrition, and regular vet visits can help ensure a happy and healthy life for as long as possible.
Old Labrador Diet
As your dog ages, their nutritional needs may change.
There are new factors to consider, including:
- Anti-Inflammatory Foods
- Proper Hydration
- Calorie Intake
- Special Formulas for a Senior Dog
Remember, every dog is different and may have different nutritional needs as they age.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Senior Dogs
Foods high in anti-inflammatory properties may help relieve joint pain and improve mobility.
Omega-3 fatty acids are great for inflammation in adult dogs as well as humans! We recommend adding half to one full tablespoon of high-quality fish oil to your dog's meal once a day.
Fully cooked, deboned salmon is a great, healthy treat for an old Labrador Retriever that will fight inflammation and support brain health.
You must shred the salmon by hand and catch any tiny stray bones. As a human, you will handle the occasional fishbone much better than your dog will. Don't skip this step.
Blueberries and celery provide inflammation-fighting benefits, too, if your older dog likes them!
Our Favorite Joint and Inflammation Supplements for Old Labs
We tend to prefer supplementing our dogs' diets with whole foods and using vet-prescribed medication when necessary, but there are some great supplements we trust for our pets.
- Zesty Paws Green-Lipped Mussel Bites for Dogs: Green-lipped mussels are a type of shellfish that are prized for their high content of omega-3 fatty acids. They also have antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which can help support joint health.
- Nutramax Cosequin Senior Dog Joint Health Supplement: This unique supplement contains a powerful combination of all-natural ingredients developed to support healthy joints and reduce inflammation in elderly or less active dogs.
- Turmeric and Curcumin for Dogs: Turmeric supplements for people have gotten popular lately; you may even take one for metabolic and joint health. It does the same for dogs!
- CBD Oil and Treats: CBD is derived from the hemp plant and has quickly gained a reputation for relaxation, pain relief, and healing. According to the American Kennel Club, early research on CBD in dogs has potential.
Proper Hydration for Senior Dogs
Staying hydrated is essential to senior dogs’ longevity and well-being. Ensuring water intake can help prevent major dog’s health issues in aging pups, making it a vital part of their everyday care routine.
- The number one way to encourage your dog, old or otherwise, to drink water is to make sure they have access to clean, fresh water. Refresh their bowl several times throughout the day, even if it isn't empty.
- Having multiple water bowls placed throughout your home in areas your older dog frequents gives them easy access.
- Add a little bit of broth or water to your dog's dry food to sneak in some hydration and nutrition. This has the added bonus of making their food easier to chew if they have age-related teeth issues.
- Monitor for signs of dehydration. Common signs of dehydration in dogs include sunken eyes, dry mouth and nose, and lack of skin elasticity. If you notice any of these, consult with your vet.
Calorie Intake (How Much Does My Older Labrador Need to Eat?)
In general, a senior dog needs fewer calories than younger dogs. As a decent rule of thumb, old Labradors need up to 15% less food.
Regular weigh-ins and check-ups with your vet can help ensure your senior dog stays at a healthy weight.
Obesity in Older Labs
Overfeeding and weight gain can lead to obesity, a common issue in senior Labrador Retrievers, and its associated health problems.
Portion control is an important part of senior dog care.
Obesity contributes to the following:
- Joint Pain and Arthritis
- Heart Disease
- Decreased Mobility
- Digestive Issues and Poor Liver Health
- Difficulty Breathing
- Shorter Lifespan
As always, consult with your vet before making any drastic changes to your senior dog's diet.
Are Senior Dog Food Formulas Worth It?
Yes, specially-formulated senior dog food is worth it for certain older pooches.
These formulations are designed to address the nutritional needs of older dogs, as their metabolism and nutrient needs change as they age.
Some senior dogs may benefit from the added nutrients and support provided by a special formula, while others may not require any special considerations.
Compared to regular dog food, senior formulas tend to be less calorie dense, have more fiber, and have an increased level and variety of nutrients to address age-related problems.
If you already have a supplement plan that includes fresh, whole foods, as discussed above, there might not be any reason to switch to a senior formula if your dog already loves their regular healthy food.
Best Dog Food for Older Labradors
If you decide that senior-specific food is right for your situation, here are some of the best dog food brands for older Labradors.
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula: Blue Buffalo is a trusted brand and staple in our households. Their senior formulation provides glucosamine for joints and plenty of antioxidants.
- Canidae PURE Senior Dog Food: This food from Canidae has a limited number of ingredients, using real food only. With chicken, sweet potato, and garbanzo beans, this senior food is healthy and a great choice for sensitive stomachs.
- Orijen Dog Senior Recipe: Orijen's senior formula is protein-focused, containing 85% raw or fresh meat ingredients. They focus on providing meat from all parts of the source animals for a diverse nutrient profile.
When selecting dog food, it's important to choose a brand that uses high-quality ingredients and meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards for canine nutrition.
Keep in mind that no miracle food will make your old Labrador feel like a puppy again, but the right high-quality food will lay the foundation for the best later years possible.
Play and Exercise for Old Labradors
We want to stress the importance of maintaining a healthy playtime and exercise schedule with your Labrador as they age. Just because they've slowed down doesn't mean they've lost their playful spirit.
Many old Labrador owners are nervous about overworking or injuring their dogs, but with a little thought, there's no reason to let your dog live a sedentary life as a senior.
We have a few guidelines for senior dog playtime:
- Shorter, frequent play sessions
- Gentle play
- Emphasize mental enrichment
Mental and Social Enrichment for Older Dogs
To help keep their minds in peak condition, senior dogs need both physical and mental exercise. Stimulating activities can sharpen a pup's cognitive abilities while warding off age-related decline.
We love to use puzzle toys with our older dogs. They have low physical demands but offer a problem-solving challenge that's a ton of fun for both of you!
Practicing old tricks like sit, down, roll, etc., will keep your dog's mind active, reinforcing concentration and focus. Old age might be a great time to try some new ones, too!
The saying is wrong; old dogs certainly can learn new tricks.
Puzzle and Enrichment Toys
Nothing beats a classic Kong toy with a healthy treat or spoonful of all-natural peanut butter. But dog toys have come a long way!
Lick mats have exploded in popularity recently. They offer a way to introduce healthy foods and mental stimulation to your dog's life.
We recommend spreading a thin layer of mashed sweet potato and blueberries and placing in the freezer for a few hours.
The act of manipulating the mat and licking the food out of the crevices provides a fun and tasty challenge.
Stay with your dog while they play with their toys, even if you're not directly interacting with them. This adds a bonding and social element while making it even more fun for them.
New Experiences and Places (Plus Socialization)
Taking your senior dog to new places to see new things is an underrated way to keep their mind and spirit young as the dog ages.
If your dog is cleared by a vet, local hikes, downtown visits, and trips to the beach can make for an amazing day both of you will remember, but take it slow.
Encountering new sights and smells and meeting new people is as good as it gets, as far as your dog is concerned!
Even if they have some mobility challenges, there's nothing wrong with a stroller or carrying them comfortably. Even short little excursions will yield big rewards when it comes to your older Labrador's quality of life.
Games for Older Dogs
Never underestimate the value of fetch or tug-of-war.
These games that puppies love are still fun for your older Labrador! Just dial the intensity back.
It may not seem worth it to you to have your good old dog walk a couple of yards across the room to fetch a toy for you, but to them, it's just like their prime.
The same goes for tug-of-war or short walks!
Assuming their teeth are strong enough, tugging gently on a soft toy for your dog will still be satisfying and fun for them as your dog ages!
What Problems Do Older Labradors Have?
As Labradors age, they become more prone to certain health conditions.
These dog’s health conditions and signs of aging may include the following:
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a common condition in aging dogs that results in joint swelling and pain. It can make it harder for them to get around.
- Kidney Disease: Kidney disease is a common issue for older dogs. Keep an eye out for increased thirst and urine output, as well as decreased appetite and weight loss.
- Cancer: Cancer can affect any breed, and Labradors are no exception. Symptoms may include lumps or bumps on the skin, persistent coughing or gagging, and severely decreased appetite.
- Cognitive decline: As dogs age, they may experience canine cognitive dysfunction, including memory loss and confusion.
- Heart Disease: Heart disease is a common problem in older Labradors and may be caused by high blood pressure, clogged arteries, or an irregular heartbeat.
To ensure optimum health for your senior Labrador, regular visits to the veterinarian are essential.
These check-ups not only monitor existing conditions but help identify potential issues before they become a problem. Don't delay - make sure you're up-to-date with pet healthcare!
Hearing and Vision Loss in Older Labs
Hearing and vision loss is common in older dogs. They may not be able to see or hear as well as they used to, making them more prone to accidents.
- Make their environment safe by removing hazards like sharp corners and slippery surfaces.
- Be more vocal when you approach them or call their name.
- Always opt for treats that are easy to identify and smell, as this can help them locate them even if they can't see or hear you.
- Take extra care when giving commands or instructions, as old age often means slower response times. If your pet seems confused, give them a few more seconds to process the command before repeating it.
- Ensure they stay safe outdoors. If they can't see or hear, they won't be able to sense danger around them, so it's important to be mindful of their surroundings and adjust accordingly.
Why Do Old Dogs Get Lumps?
As dogs age, they may develop lumps and bumps on their skin or under the fur, which can be a normal part of aging or a sign of a more serious issue.
While they're most often harmless and just a part of aging, you should monitor them for changes in size, color, and sensitivity. Report any sudden changes to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Fatty tumors called lipomas are the most common type of lump found on older dogs and are usually 100% harmless.
They feel soft to the touch and can be moved around easily.
Skin tags are the other most common type of lump or bump found on an elderly Labrador.
They are small flaps of skin that hang from the body. They're not painful and don't cause any harm.
Cancer can also cause lumps and bumps in older dogs, and it's important to have any suspicious lumps evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
A lump is worrisome if it is red, hot, or swollen or if your dog regularly leaks discharge.
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson