While your German shepherd might be getting older, this doesn’t mean that they cannot still live a full and happy life. Just as with humans, as dogs age, they begin to develop health problems that could affect their quality of life.
In the picture above you see one of our old friends with his younger buddy. I would argue he got to age 14, because he was always strong, but also because hanging around a young friend kept him active and amused.
But, also just as with humans, the right care can help to elongate their lives and make them healthier and happier, even in these later years. Here’s what you need to know about caring for older German shepherds:
Feed your dog a diet suited for an older dog.
Most people focus on buying special food for their puppies, that provide those puppies with the nutrition they need to spur healthy development. What you might not realize, however, is that your dog also needs special food when they grow older.
Not only are older dogs more prone to weight gain, which means they need a lower calorie alternative than what they ate as younger dogs, they should also be given food that if rife with the nutrients that help keep an older body limber and active.
Look for food that promises to help with joint issues—this is especially important for German shepherds, who often have joint issues, even before they become senior dogs. Also, look for brands that use only natural ingredients, as older dogs will become more sensitive to “junk” food.
Make sure your German shepherd still gets exercise.
You can tell that your dog is starting to age when they start to slow down. Not all German shepherds will naturally slow down as they get to their elder years (we had one that was still zipping around the back yard and going on runs when she was thirteen years old), but most will.
If they are starting to spend more time sleeping and less time on the move, this doesn’t mean that you should just let them sleep on their dog beds all day and night. A dog in motion tends to stay in motion, so if you are diligent about putting the leash on your older German shepherd and taking him for a walk, he is more likely to stay active and, therefore, healthier into his older years. Even if you have to dial back the intensity or amount of that exercise, he should still get some.
Watch his weight.
One of the reasons that smaller dogs live longer than larger dogs is because they weigh less than larger dogs. If your German shepherd starts to gain extra weight as they age, it could only speed up the aging process and create more serious problems for that dog in their later years.
Fat on a dog can create serious problems for their joints and organs. While they are probably going to gain a little bit, simply because they have slowed down as they age, you do not want to see your dog gaining a lot of weight. This is very bad and should be carefully monitored.
If you start to see that your dog is gaining some weight, you should dial back the treats and pick up a lower calorie food. One formulated specifically for older dogs is always a good option. You should also be able to find a food that is formulated specifically for older German shepherds which will help you address any weight gain and any joint issues.
Take him to the vet.
Like humans who need to visit the doctor more often as they grow older, your aging German shepherd will likely need to see the vet more often than when they were younger.
Your vet will be able to help you identify issues that might only be starting to develop, like joint issues, or help you manage more serious issues like kidney and liver issues that many German shepherds encounter as they age. This is also a good way to make sure that you are feeding your dog the right food and that they are getting enough exercise (and the right kind of exercise).
A vet will be able to help you be on the lookout for warning signs of more serious diseases, so you can stop them in their tracks or lessen their impact.
Take care of their teeth.
As your dog ages, his teeth will become more and more vulnerable to decay and damage. If you neglect your dog’s teeth, you might start to see even more serious issues cropping up, including heart and digestive problems.
Your dog needs his teeth in order to properly chew his food and unhealthy teeth can also be a magnet and a breeding ground for bacteria that could eventually start to affect the rest of your dog’s organs. While your dog might be resistant to teeth brushing, this is even more important when he is aging than when he was a puppy.
One of the ways that you can keep his teeth clean is by continuing to feed him hard food, which helps to scrape tarter from the teeth, and to give him chew toys that are specifically designed to clean his teeth. These will prevent any serious issues from arising with your dog’s teeth in his later years.