Cognitive Enrichment for Your Senior Beagle: Boosting Brain Health

Suzie Cyrenne
Authored by Suzie Cyrenne
Suzie is a Certified Homeopath and Co-Founder of Zumalka
, specializing in natural and holistic remedies for pets.
- Dec 20, 2023

Age-related cognitive decline is one of the health issues that your senior Beagle can be susceptible to at this point in his life.

Keeping your senior dog healthy can be a challenge if he's not protected from mental health concerns like cognitive dysfunction syndrome and similar conditions.

We've put together this blog post to walk you through everything you need to know about maintaining your older dog's brain in tiptop shape during his senior years—before he becomes prone to setbacks that can have a huge impact on his mental capacity and behavior sooner or later.

Besides getting you in on the signs of cognitive issues in senior dogs, we will also provide you with mental enrichment ideas that your golden-aged pooch will surely appreciate.

We'd just like to stress as early as now that proper mental stimulation plays a key role in pulling the whole thing off.

 

Senior Dogs Go Through a Lot of Physical and Mental Changes

Old beagle dogAs a dog ages, his body will experience many significant changes in the process.

These changes can be so remarkable that they can somehow affect your much older dog's life in one way or another. It may even involve you, other dogs, as well as other pets in your household.

Moreover, their effects could either be positive (like in the case of behavioral enrichment) or negative (such as in cognitive decline, akin to Alzheimer's disease in humans) depending on how you manage your aging process.

While most pet parents seem to focus on the physical side of things, it is also important to mentally stimulate senior dogs. Knowing how to make the most of mental stimulation can help you maximize the benefits of positive reinforcement training and keep your senior dog's behavior ideal.

For this blog post, we will focus on why senior dogs need mental stimulation as much as they require physical exercise.

Besides walking you through the signs that your old dog could be suffering from mental health concerns, we will also get you in on simple and practical tips to keep your senior dog engaged mentally.

 

Cognitive Issues Can Unexpectedly Pop Up as a Dog Ages

Woman lying on the couch with her dog.What's really alarming about mental health problems in a senior dog is that they won't be as apparent compared to other wellness issues like nicks, cuts, lesions, arthritis, and similar concerns. Older dogs may also show these negative effects out of the blue.

Remember: a dog's brain requires exercise, too.

And unlike what a lot of dog parents mistakenly think, keeping an older dog mentally engaged is not that complicated, either. This can be done through the use of puzzle toys that have hidden treats (like the Kong wobbler) or by teaching older dogs new tricks.

As we've emphasized earlier, making it a point to stimulate your golden-aged pooch mentally is crucial to maintaining his status as a healthy and happy dog.

Don't worry because we've dedicated a whole separate section on how to successfully achieve this for your senior dog as we go along.

 

The Signs of Cognitive Problems in Older Dogs

Old dog sitting outsideAlthough mental health concerns aren't as apparent compared to other wellness issues in senior dogs, there are indicators that you can take note of. Overlooking these signs can have a huge impact on the quality of life of your older dog:

Unexpected changes in sleep patterns

It's not uncommon that old dogs may have different sleeping schedules compared to a Beagle puppy or juvenile adult of the breed.

However, it already becomes an issue if you notice that your older dog seems to sleep less at night and more during the day. The same scenario is also true if your beyond adult dog appears to not sleep at all.

Sudden irritability and anxiety

Beagles are very loving and gentle dogs.

But if you notice that your senior dog is unexpectedly displaying bouts of irritability or even aggression, it could mean he is going through some mental health concerns and will require enrichment activities to correct.

Keeping an eye on the overall body language of your dog is highly recommended during this time since he may also be suffering from separation anxiety or even depression.

General loss of interest

You probably have an idea of the things (for example: puzzle toys and frisbees) and activities (for example: playing games like tug of war and hide and seek) that your beyond adult dog likes.

And one very prominent sign that he's having mental health concerns is he seems to be suddenly indifferent to his favorite activities like going on walks or ignoring the toys he typically loves to play with.

One guide question to take note of is this: when was the last time you saw your golden-aged dog sniff at something new or unusual to him?

Drastic changes in appetite

While this may sound surprising, mental health problems affecting your senior dog's brain can influence his food preferences, as well as his overall appetite.

Although it's not uncommon that senior dogs may not have the same appetite compared to their younger years (puppy stage or juvenile adult stage), an extreme change in the way your pet eats can be a sign of cognitive issues.

Here's a quick test to determine if your dog is hungry or going through a mental health concern: offer him his favorite treats or entice him to eat his favorite food. Do this for about a couple of days.

If your dog ignores even his favorite treat during this time, chances are you need to improve his mental stimulation activities.

Sudden changes in bathroom habits

Golden-aged dogs suffering from cognitive issues can unexpectedly forget the basic things they've learned during obedience training, particularly being trained where to do their business inside the house.

At his age, your dog should already know when and where to poop or urinate. An indicator of cognitive decline is regression as regards these routine physiological functions.

 

Your Senior Dog Could Be Prone to Cognitive Decline

Woman holding her dogYou might think that "cognitive decline is not something that will happen to my dog." This is actually the reason why some older dogs become more vulnerable to mental health problems.

As we've pointed out in the beginning, keeping your dog moving is not enough to keep him resilient against cognitive issues. Consistent mental stimulation and enrichment should also be part of regular exercise.

For the next part of our discussion, we will go through simple and practical ways to keep cognitive health problems in older dogs in check.

 

6 Ways to Support Cognitive Enrichment for Senior Beagles

Three dogs walking outsideAs stated previously, your older Beagle can be at risk of cognitive decline if he isn't given the right amount of mental stimulation each day.

Below are some straightforward measures that you should include in your senior dog care checklist to prevent this from happening sooner or later:

#1. Keep a close eye on any behavioral changes in your old dog.

Closely monitoring how your dog acts and behaves is crucial in ensuring that he won't be prone to mental health concerns.

If your dog seems to hide and skulk more than playing, it could be a sign of this problem. An old dog engaging in his favorite activities even at his age is an indicator of ideal mental wellness.

However, it is crucial to remember that it is your responsibility to prevent boredom and keep your daily activities fun and engaging.

#2. Give your senior pooch the right diet and nutrition.

Proper diet and nutrition play a key role in keeping the brain healthy.

Make sure you regularly give your dog brain-boosting nutrients like vitamin B, choline, vitamin E, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, among others.

Integrating food puzzle toys during meal times can also help encourage your dog to think and analyze things while eating. It can make meals more fun and engaging, too! You can pick from many puzzle toys the next time you drop by your local pet stores.

A good example is a snuffle mat that encourages a dog to use his sense of smell and brain power to "forage" for treats and other tasty things.

#3. Regular physical and mental exercise is essential.

Beagle dog on a leashAs we highlighted earlier, physical exercise should be accompanied by mental stimulation.

Although it is highly recommended that you go for low-impact exercises when an older dog is concerned, you can maximize shorter walks and similar workouts by accompanying them with mental activities.

Examples of these include engaging your dog in trick training, which is both fun and will encourage your pet to think and be more resourceful. And yes, you can still successfully teach an old dog new tricks!

Teaching him a new trick regularly can do wonders for his brain health and mental enrichment. This can also be done by using his favorite toy or devices like underwater treadmills. And you can do this at your own pace as well.

Keep in mind, though, that it is important to keep your training sessions short due to your dog's age. Always remember to give your older pooch a treat whenever you engage him in these activities to keep him looking excited for your next session.

#4. Consult with your vet or pet wellness expert.

Don't hesitate to reach out to a pet wellness expert or a vet if you notice changes in your old dog's behavior or daily activities.

Does your dog seem to be disinterested in going for walks? Is he consistently ignoring your invitations to play? Does he pass up on his favorite toy or toys?

While it is expected that your dog won't be as active as before due to his age, a drastic change in his daily activities and routine is a red flag.

#5. Maintain a safe and comfortable living environment for your senior dog.

Environmental enrichment is a key factor in keeping mental health ideal in senior dogs. This helps ensure that he is going to be safe whenever you engage him in play or some other activity that supports brain power.

#6. Socialization should be on your checklist.

Social enrichment ensures that your dog stays physically and mentally healthy.

Scheduling visits to the dog park or allowing him to meet other pets and humans is one simple way to do this. Just remember to be careful with pets you don't personally know since they could be potential carriers of parasites and similar unwanted visitors.

 


About the author

Suzie Cyrenne
Suzie Cyrenne

HOMEOPATH & CO-FOUNDER OF ZUMALKA

Suzie Cyrenne has dedicated more than 20 years of her life in making and improving natural animal health solutions in the global setting.

Being the co-founder of Zumalka, Suzie is a forerunner in enhancing the lives of pets through natural and homeopathic options using the knowledge she has gained from the Classical Homeopathy School in Quebec.

Through the guidance of her mother-in-law and fellow natural health expert, Denyse Lessard, Suzie constantly devotes herself to create premium pet products that are aimed at dealing with the root causes of wellness problems and not just their symptoms.

Besides immersing herself in books, personal development and visiting new places, Suzie also enjoys keeping herself in tiptop shape by snowboarding and taking daily hikes with her husband and Zumalka co-founder, Matt Lessard, and their Golden-Doodle, Westin.

Find out more about Suzie when you click HERE.


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