Senior Dogs and Longevity
Your German Shepherd’s senior years start at about age 8. As our dogs age, their health needs change. Important considerations are diet, vaccines and management of any health concerns.
Diet: By the time your dog has reached their senior years, any special considerations for their diet have revealed themselves. In general, there really shouldn’t be a major food change for your dog. Keeping treats and “people” food to a minimum, or not at all, is more important than it ever was.
Extra weight should be taken off. Your dog’s frame shouldn’t have any extra weight through senior years. If they don’t have a thin, trim appearance, slim them down. Obesity in dogs manifests in not just obvious ways, with joint concerns, but also considerations like diabetes. Consult with your veterinarian to be certain you’re feeding the proper fat and protein ratios for your dog.
Dogs of all ages should avoid, soy, wheat and flax. Flax is a common allergen and is included in most dog foods. Search for treats and foods that don’t have soy, wheat and flax. REALLY!
Vaccines: Over vaccination of dogs is a MAJOR concern. By the time your dog reaches his senior years, he’s developed a strong immune system and likely already has immunity for all of the vaccinations he’s received in his lifetime. Vaccinations can become unnecessary. Many vets recommend performing titers to measure immunity, instead of challenging the immune system with additional vaccines. A titer to measure immunity is a blood test drawn by your vet and analyzed at a laboratory. This is generally a test that requires a few days to a week for results, so plan ahead a little.
Unfortunately there comes a time to consider tough decisions.  When is the right time? Of course there’s never a right time. We’ve seen some really wonderful longevity in our lines. Some dogs from us have even reached their 16th year. That’s extremely old for a GSD, even from us. We consider anything beyond age 12, bonus time. Hopefully those very difficult decisions are made easier with your vet’s good advice. As always, we’re here to help with any questions as well.