As the saying goes, knowledge is power. When it comes to your pup – who’s no longer a pup at all – the more you know, the better your ability to care for them. With a bit of time and attention, you can help your aging dog ease into a healthy, happy, and comfortable senior life.
According to Jenna Stregowski, RVT, “A dog is generally considered geriatric around the age of seven. However, this varies a bit for each dog. The typical lifespan of a dog is 12-15 years. Smaller dog breeds tend to live longer on average, while large and giant dog breeds have shorter life spans. Therefore, a small dog is considered a senior at an older age, around 8-10. Whereas large breed dogs may be considered senior by age 5-6.” It depends on genetics and overall health.
Just as with people, your aging dog’s body is beginning to change. Keeping an eye out for these changes will help you help your dog stay healthy and pain free. There are a few key categories to be aware of: bones and joints; internal organs; skin and coat; and eyes, ears, and teeth. Read on to learn more about what to expect, and when to talk to your vet.
In much the same way as their bodies beginning to slow, your senior dog’s thinking can slow as well. Many dogs experience canine cognitive disorder as they age, what some call doggie Alzheimer’s. It’s possible that your pet may forget things they once knew. They may appear lost in the home, as if unsure where beds or food are. They may sometimes forget housetraining, leading to increased accidents.
But despite the saying, an old dog can learn new tricks, especially when those new tricks are simply updates to old habits. Sometimes, older dogs are better learners than they were when they were hyper puppies. Continued training can even help keep your senior dog’s mind agile. Here’s what you need to know about training an older dog.
An older dog has different nutritional needs than a younger pet. As they become less active, they won’t require as much food. Obesity is a common problem among older dogs, which can have a range of ill effects, including diabetes and greater discomfort from joint disorders.
Also, your senior dog will need different things from their food, with a decreased need for fat and protein and an increased need for some vitamins. Here’s what you need to know about your aging dog’s dietary needs.
Because so many changes are occurring as your dog ages, regular trips to the vet become more important than ever. Your dog’s increased sensitivity to disease means that you and your vet must be extra vigilant.
Your pet’s yearly checkups should now occur every six months. While you’re there, learn from your vet what is normal in terms of pulse, breathing rate, and temperature so that you can check these things at home. Of course, you should respond to any potential problems as quickly as possible with a trip to the vet.
The products you keep around the house may need to change as your dog ages. That bouncy ball may roll under a couch and gather dust as your older dog becomes less interested in playtime. However, a new toy for a short game of tug-of-war could be just what the doctor ordered, and a cushier bed can be exactly your dog needs to ease those arthritic joints. Specialized toys for senior dogs such as the Senior Kong that encourages the healthy habit of chewing can also ensure better dental health.
The most important adjustments you can make for your senior dog, says Stregowski, are, “See your vet every six months instead of once per year for wellness exams and health screenings. Change to a senior dog food formula. Take slower, shorter walks several times a day rather than one or two long, brisk walks. Be patient and give lots of extra TLC.
More on Caring for Your Dog
10 Senior Dog Symptoms You Won't Want to Ignore
Building a Diet for Your Dog with Strong Nutrients
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.