Discover essential tips for ensuring the health and happiness of your senior's dog as they age. Our vets at Pittsboro shed light on senior dogs' unique needs and provide valuable insights on how to support your beloved canine companion throughout their golden years.
Senior Dogs & Aging
You may be familiar with the popular idea that 1 human year is the equivalent to about 7 dog years as a way to gauge your pup's life stages and expected lifespan. However, things are a little more complicated than that. Other factors, such as breed and size, for example, affect the rate at which your dog ages.
Smaller breeds of dogs tend to age more slowly than larger breeds. Speaking generally, though, there are a few helpful guidelines to think about when determining the age at which your dog is considered to be a senior: around 10-12 years for small breeds, about 8-9 years old for medium breeds, and about 6-7 years old for large and giant breeds.
Veterinary Care For Senior Dogs
You will likely start to notice some differences in your pet as they grow older. From physical transformations to shifts in behavior and mental capabilities, aging is a natural part of your dog's journey. While certain signs of aging, like the greying of their muzzle, typically don't require immediate veterinary attention, responsible pet parents should remain vigilant for indicators that warrant a visit to their veterinarian's office. Some of these potential 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
Book a wellness check with your vet if you notice these signs in your older pooch. By taking your senior dog for routine wellness exams, you're allowing your veterinarian to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions and begin treatment as soon as possible.
Your veterinarian will also assess your senior dog's nutrition and mobility and make recommendations for diet or exercise adjustments that may benefit your dog.
As dogs get older, it's a good idea to see your veterinarian on a regular basis for checkups. Besides an annual or biannual exam, it is suggested that pet parents get yearly blood work done for their senior dogs.
It's recommended that you do blood work to check your senior dog's white and red blood cells and their kidney and liver function to make sure that they're healthy. This is an easy way of being able to detect any kind of disease.
Caring For Your Senior Dog
As your dog grows older, their nutritional requirements will probably undergo changes. Senior dogs often experience a decrease in activity and a slower pace of life, which can make them susceptible to weight gain. Unfortunately, excess weight can lead to a host of health issues, such as cardiovascular problems and joint discomfort.
To ensure your senior dog remains healthy and fit, it's essential to consult your veterinarian. They can assess your dog's specific needs and advise you on potential adjustments to their diet, such as monitoring their daily calorie intake or transitioning to a specialized weight loss formula.
In the market, you can find an array of prescription diets and supplements tailored to address the unique health challenges faced by senior dogs. It's advisable to have a conversation with your vet to determine if a specific diet or supplement is recommended for your furry friend.
Beyond the physical advantages of a well-balanced diet, proper nutrition can play a role in maintaining your dog's cognitive function as they age. Just like humans, dogs may experience cognitive decline or conditions akin to Alzheimer's. However, incorporating a food rich in omega-3 fatty acids into their diet, coupled with regular exercise, may contribute to keeping their mental acuity sharp.
Caring for your aging dog's nutritional needs is a proactive approach to ensure their overall well-being and enhance their quality of life in their golden years.
Exercise (Physical & Mental)
As with humans, keeping the body and mind active is important for better health as your dog ages. Maintaining a regular physical activity schedule can help your canine companion keep their weight within a healthy range and exercise their joints.
Ensuring your dog's comfort and well-being during exercise is crucial. If you observe any difficulties or changes in their enthusiasm for long walks or park runs they once enjoyed, consider opting for shorter and more frequent walks. Reluctance or slowing down on walks might indicate underlying health concerns like arthritis or hip dysplasia. In such cases, reaching out to your veterinarian promptly is essential to ensure your furry companion receives the necessary care and treatment.
Along with regular physical exercise, it is important that senior dogs also receive mental stimulation. It really is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks – or introduce a puzzle game or toy that they'll enjoy solving for kibble or treats hidden inside. There are many options for your pup in pet supply stores and online.
Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable
In addition to prioritizing their well-being through proper veterinary care, nutrition, and regular physical and mental exercise, there are several thoughtful measures you can take to ensure your beloved senior companion enjoys a comfortable and fulfilling life during their golden years, such as:
- 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
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.