As our dogs age, the care they need will begin to change. Today our vets in Suffolk County discuss the signs of old age, special care and when your dog is considered to be a senior.
How old is a senior dog?
The point at which your dog becomes a senior varies greatly depending on the type of dog breed that it is.
Typically the larger the breed of dog the faster that it will age. 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.
Indications of an aging dog
Many things will change as your dog ages but one of the main signs might be your dog's behavior as it gets older. 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 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
Care Requirements for Senior Dogs
Luckily, as your dog ages, there are many things that you can do to make them more comfortable.
Proactive Vet Care
Our vets believe in proactive, preventive care being key to your pet living a long and healthy life. 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 senior dog's nutrition and mobility and make recommendations for diet or exercise adjustments that may benefit your dog.
Your dog's nutritional needs will change as they age due to their overall health and changes in exercise. 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.
Your vet may recommend feeding your dog a particular brand of dog food or nutritional supplements to help them continue a healthy diet as they age.
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 Alzheimers-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.
Physical & Mental Exercise
Physical activity remains just as, if not more important as your dog moves into the later years of their life. 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.
At all stages of life, mental stimulation is incredibly important. 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. One example is a puzzle feeder that makes your dog work to figure out how to get their 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.