As your dog ages, there are several things to keep in mind when it comes to the health and well-being of a senior dog. Our Clovis vets explain senior dogs, their needs, and how you can help your canine companion stay healthy and happy throughout their golden years.
Senior Dogs & Aging
Understanding your dog's age can be a little complicated, and the popular notion that 1 human year is equivalent to 7 dog years is not entirely accurate. Various factors, such as breed and size, influence the aging of dogs.
Generally speaking, smaller breeds age more slowly than larger breeds. To determine when your dog is considered a senior, a few guidelines can be helpful.
Small breeds are often considered seniors at around 10-12 years of age, medium breeds at about 8-9 years, and large and giant breeds at around 6-7 years old.
Veterinary Care For Senior Dogs
As your pet grows older, you will likely notice changes in their physical, mental, and behavioral attributes. Aging is a natural process, and some of the most common signs of aging in dogs, like greying of their muzzle, don't need veterinary attention. However, pet owners should remain vigilant for signs requiring a visit to the vet's office. Some of these signs include:
- Weight fluctuation (gain or loss)
- Poor or worsening hearing/vision
- Sleep abnormalities (sleeping too much/not enough)
- Mental dullness
- Dental disease and tooth loss
- Loss of muscle tone
- Arthritis and joint issues
- Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function
As your dog ages, it's important to watch for certain signs and book a wellness check with your vet if you notice any. Regular wellness exams for senior dogs allow your veterinarian to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions and begin treatment as soon as possible. During these checkups, your vet will also assess your senior dog's nutrition and mobility and recommend any necessary diet or exercise adjustments that may benefit your dog's health.
In addition to regular checkups, it's also recommended that pet owners get yearly blood work done for their senior dogs. This type of checkup can help detect any potential diseases by checking your dog's white and red blood cell count, as well as their kidney and liver function. By taking these preventive measures, you can help ensure that your senior dog is healthy and happy in their golden years.
Caring For Your Senior Dog
As your furry friend ages, their nutritional requirements will also likely change. Most senior dogs become less active as time goes by, which might cause them to gain weight, leading to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease and joint pain.
It's best to seek advice from your veterinarian about your dog's diet. They can help you adjust your dog's daily calorie intake or switch to a weight loss-specific formula if necessary.
Additionally, there are prescription diets and supplements available on the market that can help with various health conditions that senior dogs may experience. It's important to talk to your vet about which diet or supplement they recommend for your dog.
A healthy diet can also have cognitive benefits for your furry companion. Like humans, dogs may suffer from dementia or Alzheimer '''s-like conditions as they age. However, feeding your dog food that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, along with providing them with proper exercise, may help maintain their mental alertness.
Exercise (Physical & Mental)
Similar to humans, keeping your dog's body and mind active is essential for their health as they age. Maintaining a regular physical activity schedule can help your furry friend maintain a healthy weight and exercise their joints.
It's crucial to pay attention to your dog's comfort and abilities when it comes to exercise. If you notice that your dog is having issues with long walks or runs in the park that they used to enjoy, try taking them for shorter and more frequent walks. Slowing down or seeming reluctant to go on walks can also be signs of health issues such as arthritis or hip dysplasia. If you notice these signs, be sure to contact your vet as soon as possible to ensure that your pet receives the necessary treatment.
In addition to regular physical exercise, it's also important to provide mental stimulation for senior dogs. It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks or introduce them to puzzle games or toys that they'll enjoy solving for kibble or treats hidden inside. There are many options available for your pup in pet supply stores and online.
Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable
Aside from ensuring they are receiving adequate veterinary senior care, nutrition, and physical and mental exercise, there are a few things you can consider doing to help your aging four-legged friend live out their golden years comfortably:
- Orthopedic dog bed, heated dog bed (or heating pad/mat set to low heat under a blanket in their sleeping area) for dogs with joint pain or stiffness
- More carpeting around a home with tile, laminate, or wood floors can reduce slipping or tripping hazards for your older dog (some dogs also do well with dog socks that have non-slip soles)
- Pet gates (or baby gates) can be placed at the top or bottom of stairs to prevent tripping or falling hazards.
- Improve accessibility with dog ramps to help your pet go up and down the stairs, on furniture, or into cars; elevating their food and water bowls can also help with neck and back pain.
- If your dog has vision issues, seeing at night will be harder for them; some nightlights around the home will help them navigate.