Today, our Pleasant Hill veterinarians discuss when a dog becomes a senior, how to recognize signs of aging, and the special care that an aging dog may require.
How old is a senior dog?
You've probably heard that one human year equals seven dog years—but it's not quite that simple. 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
You're likely to notice both physical and mental changes in your dog as it ages. While some of these changes are part of the natural aging process (such as grey hair around their muzzle) and do not require veterinary attention, others may require veterinary attention to ensure your pup remains comfortable as they 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
- The dog slowing down on walks
How to take care of a senior dog
If you're wondering how to make an old dog happy or how to make an old dog comfortable, fear not. Senior pet care can be as simple as following the steps below.
The first step to caring for a senior pup is to prioritize regular vet visits. By taking your dog for geriatric care and routine wellness exams, you're allowing your vet to screen for any emerging 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 your dog ages, its nutritional requirements will almost certainly change. Senior dogs become more prone to weight gain as they slow down and exercise less. Excessive weight gain can result in additional health problems, such as joint pain and cardiovascular disease. Consult your veterinarian about adjusting your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a weight-loss food.
Additionally, there are a variety of prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs that are designed to address the various health issues that senior dogs face. Consult your veterinarian to determine if your pup requires a special diet or supplement.
Apart from the physical benefits of a balanced diet, proper nutrition may aid in your dog's cognitive function as they age. Dogs, like humans, can develop dementia or conditions resembling Alzheimer's disease. Providing your dog with a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as adequate exercise, may help them maintain mental alertness.
Exercise - Physical & Mental
As your dog ages, it must maintain a consistent physical activity schedule. Regular exercise helps dogs maintain healthy body weight and maintain the health of their joints. You may, however, need to adjust the types of exercise you provide for your pup. For instance, if you notice your dog is having difficulty with the long walks they used to enjoy, try taking him on shorter, more frequent walks.
Along with physical exercise, senior dogs require mental stimulation as well. It's never too late to teach your dog a new trick or bring a new puzzle into the house. There are numerous options for dog problem-solving activities. One example is a puzzle feeder, which requires your dog to solve a puzzle to obtain its 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.