If you have an aging dog, their routine care should focus on improving their comfort and helping them maintain a good quality of life. Today, our Parrish vets share how to tell if your pet is aging and the best way to take care of an old dog.
How old is a senior dog?
You've probably heard that one human year equals seven dog years—but it's not quite that straightforward. That's because individual dog breeds age at different paces than others.
In general, smaller dogs do not age as quickly as large breed dogs. Here is a general guide:
Small breeds are considered senior dogs around 10-12 years old.
Medium breeds are considered senior dogs around 8-9 years old.
Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs around 6-7 years old.
Signs That Your Dog is Getting Old
As your dog ages, you are likely to notice both physical and mental changes in your pup. While some of these changes are the natural progression of aging (such as grey hair around their muzzle) and do not require any specific vet care, other changes may need veterinary attention to ensure your pup maintains their comfort into their old age.
Some signs that your dog is getting older include:
- Weight gain or loss
- White hairs on the muzzle and face
- Vision and/or hearing loss
- Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping
- Reduction of mental acuity
- Gum disease or tooth loss
- Loss of muscle tone
- Arthritis and joint issues
- Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function
Senior Dog Care
There are several things you can do to help your dog maintain their comfort and well-being as they age.
The first step in senior pet care is to prioritize regular vet visits. By taking your senior dog for annual routine exams, you're allowing your vet to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions and begin a treatment regimen 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 help improve your dog's comfort.
As your dog ages, their nutrition needs will likely change. As senior dogs slow down and exercise less, they become more prone to weight gain. Excess weight gain can cause other health issues, including joint pain and cardiovascular conditions. Speak to your vet about adjusting your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a food that is specifically formulated for weight loss.
There is also a range of prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs that are targeted to the various health conditions that senior dogs experience. Speak with your vet to see if they recommend a specific diet or supplement for your pup.
Besides the physical benefits of a good diet, proper nutrition may be able to help your dog maintain their cognitive function as they age. Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from dementia or Alzheimers-like conditions. Feeding your dog that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, along with providing them with proper exercise, may help them maintain mental alertness.
Exercise - Physical & Mental
Wondering how to make an old dog happy and comfortable? Exercise is key. As your dog ages, it is important that they keep up with a regular schedule of physical activity. Regular exercise helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and keeps their joints healthy. However, you may have to adjust the forms of exercise you are providing for your pup. For example, if you notice your dog is slowing down on walks they once raced through without a problem, try taking your dog for more frequent walks that are shorter in duration.
Along with regular physical exercise, it is important that senior dogs receive mental stimulation too. It's never too late to teach your pup a new trick or bring home a new puzzle. There are lots of options for problem-solving activities for dogs. One example is a puzzle feeder that makes your dog work to figure out how to get their kibble.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always consult with a vet before making medical decisions for your pet.