Unfortunately compared to humans, German Shepherds have a relatively short lifespan averaging around 9 to 13 years. Typically, a large dog breed like the GSD is considered a senior when they reach the age of 8 years old. This means time is of the essence and anything we can do to extend the life of our furry friend is important. This article gives you 12 senior German Shepherd care tips that will help you comfort your aging pooch and hopefully tack on a few extra years of loving joy to their lives.
1. Give Your Senior GSD Lots of Love and Affection:
As your German Shepherd gets older and becomes less agile, it may be hard for them to do certain things. This means that spending more time with them on a daily basis is crucial.
Even the small act of telling them “I love you,” can impact their well-being. A study done by Canine Cottages found some telling information about a dog’s affinity for love.
To collect the data, they attached heart rate monitors to multiple dogs to detect any changes when receiving loving gestures including the words “I love you.” Here is what they found:
|Words or Gesture Given:||Heart Rate Change in %|
|“I love you”||46.2% increase|
|Giving your dog cuddles||22.7% decrease|
|Humans seeing their dogs||10.4% increase|
As you can see from the data, just telling your German Shepherd “I love you” and spending quality time with them makes them happy. Unfortunately, you need to go easy on the cuddles and hugs. Multiple studies have shown that dogs don’t really dig it.
2. Give Your Senior German Shepherd Age-Appropriate Food:
One of the most important senior German Shepherd care tips we can give is to give your dog healthy, nutritional food that is appropriate for their age.
Older canines need a good balance of protein, fat and fiber to keep them lean but also add muscle. Like humans, as dogs age and get into their later years, they start to lose muscle mass faster.
To offset the loss of muscle, some GSDs may need up to a 50% increase in protein once they reach the age of 8-9 years old. This is above and beyond the standard protein intake of 18-22% that adult German Shepherds need.
The exact amount of protein to feed your dog will depend on several factors. Having a discussion with your vet is the best way to formulate the proper diet. Here is a chart to give you an idea of the correct protein intake amounts:
Of course, the exact protein requirement will depend on the weight of your dog. Generally, 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight is the rule. In addition, caloric intake is usually reduced for senior German Shepherds by about 20-30%.
However, as their weight starts to decline in their later years, you may need to increase calories to sustain their weight. This depends on your specific GSDs needs.
If you are feeding your German Shepherd a dry food and can afford the high price tag, we recommend Blue Buffalo. They have a new bundle for senior dogs that comes with a soft chews joint supplement.
If you are on more of a budget, we recommend going with a Costco or Kirkland dog food. It will be closer to the price of Iams but much better quality.
3. Give Your German Shepherd Senior Supplements:
Supplements should definitely be in your arsenal when it comes to senior German Shepherd care. A healthy diet goes a long way but supplements allow you to target specific needs depending on the dog.
They are commonly used to treat joint conditions like elbow and hip dysplasia, digestive problems, and even anxiety and stress. They contribute to overall health and can even increase longevity in your GSD.
Here are some of the supplements available and the type of issues they can address with your German Shepherd:
These are perfect for a senior German Shepherd that has joint conditions like elbow and hip dysplasia. They can reduce the amount of inflammation and joint pain and alleviate some of the stiffness.
They contain important ingredients like Glucosamine which serves a dual role, helping cartilage in the joints grow and keeping the joints nice and lubricated.
Another important ingredient is Chondroitin. It improves elasticity and encourages water retention, both of which are very important to joint mobility. In addition, studies have proven that combining Chondroitin with Glucosamine reduces pain and improves arthritis.
Every owner wants their German Shepherd to live as long as possible. These provide tons of different nutrients to keep them thriving for as long as possible.
They directly target certain issues that come with aging using a plethora of different vitamins and compounds. For example, vitamin A is used to improve their vision and immune system.
Vitamin B6 is used to regulate their hormones and nervous system. Vitamin C is used as an antioxidant which helps to lower inflammation and slows down cognitive aging. In addition, their energy will improve and their skin and coat will look better.
Similar to humans, probiotics help to balance a dog’s gut bacteria. They work by counteracting yeast and other harmful bacteria that may be present.
In addition, they also help with your GSDs digestion while simultaneously reducing stinky breath or bad gas. If your dog is constipated, the prebiotic fibers will encourage consistent bowel movements.
Note: Before using any supplements, try changing diets. A lot of times switching from a dry kibble to a raw diet that is low in carbs and sugars, may do the trick.
Stress Relief Supplements:
Older German Shepherds may experience more anxiety and stress from things like loud noises, thunderstorms, or trips.
Calm dog chews are a great way to relieve some of the stress, keeping your GSD calm and less nervous. In turn, this can add on to the time they have left in their later years.
In addition, they can also help to reduce common problems such as aggressive behavior, chewing, excessive barking, hyperactivity or unnecessary pacing.
Important: Make sure you talk to your vet before implementing any new supplements. Sometimes a change of the diet or exercise is enough to remedy the problem.
4. Exercise Senior German Shepherd Less With Low Impact:
While active and thriving adult German Shepherds can exercise for up to 2 hours a day, seniors that are less active can do well with 1 hour daily.
By no means are we telling you to let your GSD chill or sleep all day in his or her dog bed. You definitely need to keep them active and busy. But you can dial it back a notch once they reach the upper years of their life.
You want to stick to walks and low impact exercises that won’t put any unnecessary pressure on their joints. This is especially true if they have any type of joint condition or disease that makes them slow or lethargic.
Senior GSD Exercise Tips:
- Avoid heavy play or jumping around too much.
- Daily walks are a great way to keep an older dog happy and healthy.
- Play games to stimulate their brain and exercise them mentally.
- Swimming is a wonderful way to give them exercise and help with joints.
- Warm up your dog’s muscles with a quick walk around the house or in the backyard.
Just make sure to keep your senior German Shepherd moving. It will keep them healthy and help avoid possible joint conditions.
5. Take Care Of Your Senior German Shepherd’s Teeth:
Dental care is extremely important for an aging German Shepherd. Taking care of their teeth should be a priority. The older they get, the more chance they have of tooth decay.
Neglecting to brush or clean your dog’s teeth can eventually lead to periodontal disease affecting the major organs. If left untreated, it can even be fatal.
The simple act of brushing your GSDs teeth daily can do wonders for their overall health and even tack on a few extra years to their lifespan.
There are several ways that you can help keep their teeth clean. The best way is to brush their teeth daily using a pet-friendly toothpaste. (Never use human toothpaste.)
You can also feed your dog dry food which helps reduce tarter and plaque. Other methods include giving them healthy dental treats, dog bones or toys. Keeping them busy also helps to reduce boredom which can lead to unnecessary chewing on hazardous items.
6. Make Regular Visits To The Vet At Least Twice A Year:
As your German Shepherd gets older, he or she will need to make more dreaded trips to the vet. Regular trips to the vet will help stay on top of any potential issues that crop up as they get into their older years.
While adult GSDs only need one annual visit to the veterinarian, a senior German Shepherd needs to go twice a year to stay ahead of the curve and spot any issues that may arise. You want to catch them early especially when it comes to certain diseases.
This could help them live a few extra years. Your vet will also be able to adjust their diet and help you manage joint conditions or kidney and liver issues.
Senior German Shepherd care may mean more work, but the benefits are worth it. It is possible to increase their quality of life and hopefully extend their lifespan. While these tips are useful, make sure to talk to your vet about the best care for your animal’s specific needs.
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Do you own a senior German Shepherd? If so, do you have any care tips for other owners that might help them in their dog’s journey into their later years? Let us know! We would love to hear about your personal experience!