As your dog grows older, you should consider several factors regarding your senior dog's health and well-being. In this article, our vets in Anaheim will discuss senior dogs, their requirements, and the actions you can take to ensure your canine companion remains healthy and content during their golden years.
Senior Dogs & Aging
You may have heard the popular notion that 1 human year equates to roughly 7 dog years, used as a means to assess your pup's life stages and anticipated lifespan. However, the reality is more nuanced. Factors like breed and size exert an influence on your dog's aging rate.
Smaller dog breeds generally experience a slower aging process than their larger counterparts. In general terms, here are some helpful guidelines for determining when your dog reaches senior status: Small breeds typically become seniors around 10-12 years of age, medium breeds at approximately 8-9 years, and large or giant breeds at about 6-7 years old.
Veterinary Care For Senior Dogs
You will likely begin to observe various changes in your aging pet. Your dog will undergo physical, mental, and behavioral transformations as they get older. While some signs of aging, like a greying muzzle, don't require veterinary care, pet owners should remain vigilant for indicators that a visit to the vet may be necessary. These 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
If you notice these signs in your older dog, schedule a wellness check with your vet. Booking routine wellness exams for your senior dog enables your veterinarian to screen for emerging geriatric conditions and initiate treatment promptly. Your veterinarian will also evaluate your senior dog's nutrition and mobility, providing recommendations for diet or exercise adjustments to benefit your dog.
As dogs age, you should maintain regular checkups with your veterinarian. In addition to annual or biannual exams, pet parents should consider yearly blood work for their senior dogs.
It's crucial to perform blood work to assess your senior dog's white and red blood cell counts and kidney and liver function, ensuring their overall health. This straightforward approach helps in the early detection of any potential diseases.
Caring For Your Senior Dog
Your dog's nutritional needs will likely change as they age. Senior dogs typically become less active and more prone to weight gain over time. This excess weight can lead to various health issues, including cardiovascular conditions and joint problems.
To determine if your dog's diet needs adjustment, consult your veterinarian. They may recommend monitoring your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a weight loss-specific food. There are also prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs targeting specific health conditions. Discuss with your vet to identify the best diet or supplement for your pup.
In addition to physical benefits, a proper diet can support your dog's cognitive function as they age. Dogs, like humans, can experience dementia or Alzheimer 's-like conditions. Feeding your dog food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, combined with regular exercise, may help maintain their mental alertness.
Exercise (Physical & Mental)
Like humans, maintaining your aging dog's physical and mental well-being is crucial. To promote better health, keep your dog active. Establishing a consistent exercise routine can assist your canine companion in maintaining a healthy weight and ensuring their joints stay active.
Pay close attention to your dog's comfort and capabilities when planning their exercise regimen. If you notice your dog struggling with long walks or runs they once enjoyed, opt for shorter, more frequent walks. Reluctance or decreased activity may signal underlying health issues like arthritis or hip dysplasia. In such cases, promptly contact your vet to secure the necessary treatment for your pet.
In addition to regular physical activity, senior dogs also benefit from mental stimulation. It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks or introduce engaging puzzle games and toys that hide kibble or treats. You can find a wide range of options for your furry friend at pet supply stores or online.
Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable
Aside from ensuring they are receiving adequate veterinary care, nutrition, and physical and mental exercise, there are a few things you can consider doing to help your aging four-legged friend live out their golden years comfortably:
- 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 or 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.