Just like in humans, aging is a normal part of a dog’s life. At a certain point in their life, all dogs become seniors, and as such, they require more care than when they were younger. However, not all dogs age the same. So, how can you tell if your dog is considered a senior?
It mostly depends on the size and the breed. In general, large breed dogs are considered senior by the age of 5-6 years, while smaller breeds like Pugs and Dachshunds are considered senior at 10-11 years. Medium-sized breeds like Golden Retrievers fall somewhere in the middle, with the senior age starting somewhere around the age of 8-10 years.
Of course, genetics and the lifestyle of your dog also play a huge role in how fast the aging process is. Even a 10-year old Golden Retriever can show no signs of aging if it was in perfect health throughout its life.
Luckily, thanks to improved veterinary care and a change in dietary habits, pets are now living longer than ever, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. But the longer your dog lives, the more age-related problems are there to face. Let’s take a look at what you can expect with an aging dog.
What to Expect With an Aging Dog?
Dogs age very similar to humans – they become less mobile, they are more prone to health problems, and so on. One of the first signs of an aging dog is a decrease in the activity level, such as sleeping longer and having less enthusiasm for walks and playing.
The most common effects of aging in dogs are:
- Hearing Loss
- Vision Loss
- Reduced Energy
- Weight Gain
- Skin Changes
- Urinary Issues such as incontinence
Even though aging is inevitable, you can still delay its effects by carefully observing your dog and providing them with all the necessary care. Senior dogs have different care requirements, so you’ll need to do things a little differently. Here we’ve prepared a list with the most important tips on how to care for your aging dog.
7 tips on How to Care for a Senior Dog
1. Age-appropriate nutrition
Good nutrition is crucial at all ages, but certain ailments and side effects of aging can be prevented by changing your dog’s nutrition. Older dogs are more at risk of obesity, so make sure you reduce their calorie intake by 30-40%.
Important nutrients to include in your senior dog diet:
- Good sources of protein – for higher protein requirements
- Omega-3 fatty acids – for joint and bone health
- Calcium and phosphorus – for bone structure
- Vitamin E and L-carnitine – for brain and cognitive health
2. Regular exercise
Keeping your senior dog active will help them maintain healthy joints and muscles, and avoid gaining extra weight. This is especially important in large breed dogs as they are more prone to arthritis and mobility problems.
There’s a high chance that your dog won’t have the same levels of energy as it did when it was young, so make sure you don’t overdo it with the exercise. Keep a close eye and slowly build your dog’s stamina. Also, avoid taking your dog for walks in the summer heat – dogs are more sensitive to temperature changes as they age.
3. Regular visits to the vet
As your dog ages, their immune system becomes weaker, making them more prone to certain diseases. The most important thing you can do to prevent this is going regularly to the vet for checkups, at least once or twice per year.
This will help your veterinarian detect any possible disease early, which is crucial for successful treatment.
4. Dental hygiene
It’s common to see senior dogs with a few missing teeth, and that’s because most of them don’t receive the proper dental care. In addition, senior dogs are more susceptible to gum disease, which might cause your dog to stop eating over time.
To avoid this, regularly brush your dog’s teeth, or if they don’t enjoy that, start giving them dental treats. Additionally, ask your vet to professionally clean your dog’s teeth once a year when going for checkups.
5. Make your home senior pet-friendly
Arthritis is a common problem in senior dogs, but you can avoid this by providing special accommodations for your dog. A soft bedding and an easily accessible bed that doesn’t require jumping or climbing can make a huge difference. Furthermore, try placing a few carpets where your dog is spending the most time to help them gain footing and ease their movement.
Another important thing is to keep water accessible at any time, especially in summer. Senior dogs are more sensitive to temperature changes, so make sure to keep the temperature similar throughout the year.
And finally, try to prevent your dog from regularly going up and down the stairs. If that’s not possible, you can buy or make a doggy ramp that will help them move easier.
6. Groom regularly
Older dogs have special grooming needs, especially long-haired ones. As your dog ages, so does their skin and coat. As a result, their skin gets dry and flaky and can lead to serious problems if not cared for.
Therefore, regular grooming sessions can do wonders and prevent any tangles from developing. Also, use shampoos with natural ingredients that will soothe your dog’s skin.
7. Provide extra care
Canine dementia, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is a serious problem in senior dogs. Dementia in dogs is characterized by increased anxiety, disorientation, confusion, and disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle.
Luckily, this can be easily mitigated by providing extra care for your dog, such as sticking to a strict schedule to avoid confusion. All feeding, walking, and bedtime should be done at specific times each day.
In addition, try to keep your dog occupied with puzzles, new toys, and games that will mentally stimulate them.
Even though older dogs require specific care, with proper planning and regular vet checks, there’s not much to fear. Some of the symptoms of aging may seem scary, but they will happen gradually over a few years, so your dog will have plenty of time to adapt to this new lifestyle. Just make sure you’re there for emotional and medical support, and you’ll both be able to enjoy the senior years.