As our pets become elderly, cat and dog care needs to change to better suit their needs. Here, our vets at New England Animal Hospital in Fairhaven talk about caring for geriatric dogs, the signs that your dog is getting older, and at what age your dog is actually considered a senior.
At what age will my dog be a senior?
The point at which your dog becomes a senior varies greatly depending on the type of dog breed that it is.
The general rule is that the larger the dog is, the earlier they will become a senior. Here is a handy guide:
Small breeds: Small breeds of dogs are generally considered to be senior when they reach 10 to 12 years old.
Medium breeds: Medium breeds of dogs are generally considered to be senior when they reach 8 to 9 years old.
Large and giant breeds: Large and giant breeds of dogs are generally considered to be senior when they reach 6 to 7 years old.
What are the signs that my dog is getting old?
While there will be physical changes as your dog becomes a senior, one of the common signs of geriatric dogs is a change in behavior. Some other changes that your dog may experience are the natural progression of aging (such as grey hair around their muzzle) and do not require any specific vet care, while other changes may be more drastic and possibly require additional veterinary care.
Some of the other common signs that your dog may be becoming a senior 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 Considerations
While you cannot stop your dog from aging, there are ways that you can help them live through their golden year more comfortably:
Routine Geriatric Veterinary Care
One of the easiest ways to monitor your pet's health and keep them happy and comfortable is with routine preventive care. By taking your senior dog for routine wellness exams, you're allowing your vet to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions and begin treatment as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will also assess your dog's nutrition and mobility and make recommendations for senior dog care including diet or exercise adjustments that can help improve your dog's quality of life and live pain-free.
Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Geriatric Dogs
Part of senior dog care will be meeting the nutritional needs of your furry friend. Once your senior dog has slowed down they will become prone to weight gain that 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.
As your dog begins to enter their older years, your vet may offer recommendations for both brands of food and supplements to help keep them healthy.
A good diet and proper nutrition will be of great physical benefit to your dog and may be able to help your dog maintain their cognitive function as they age. Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from dementia or Alzheimer 's-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.
Ensuring Physical & Mental Exercise
When your dog gets older, it can become more important than ever to keep them moving. Regular exercise is important for them to maintain their health as well as to keep 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 having difficulty with the long walks they once loved, try taking your dog for more frequent walks that are shorter in duration.
No matter how old your dog is you should always be sure to provide them with adequate mental stimulation. It's never too late to teach your pup a new trick or bring home a new puzzle. There are a variety of options available for problem-solving activities for dogs. A puzzle feeder is a great way to keep their mind active as well as aiding in digestion.
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.