Today, our Norristown vets discuss at what age a dog is considered senior, how to spot signs of aging, and the special care requirements that an aging dog may need.
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 may observe both physical and mental changes in your dog as it ages. While some of these changes are simply a natural part of aging (like the development of grey hair around their muzzle), others might call for veterinary attention to ensure your dog 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
Care Requirements for Senior Dogs
There are several things you can do to help your dog maintain their comfort and well-being as they age.
Prioritizing routine vet visits is the first step in providing care for a senior dog. By bringing your elderly dog in for regular wellness checks, you're enabling your veterinarian to check for any new geriatric conditions and start treatment as soon as possible. Your vet will also evaluate your senior dog's mobility and nutritional status and will offer suggestions for diet and exercise changes that might be advantageous to your dog.
Dietary requirements for your dog are likely to change as they get older. The likelihood of weight gain increases as dogs age and exercise less. Cardiovascular conditions and joint pain are just two additional health problems that excessive weight gain can bring on. Consult your vet about changing your dog's daily caloric intake or switching to a food that is designed especially for weight loss.
There is also a range of prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs that are targeted to the various health conditions that senior dogs experience. Speak with your vet to see if they recommend a specific diet or supplement for your pup.
Besides the physical benefits of a good diet, proper nutrition 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.
Exercise - Physical & Mental
It is critical that your dog maintains a regular schedule of physical activity as they age. Regular exercise helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and maintains the health of their joints. However, you may need to modify the types of exercise you provide for your dog. For example, if you notice your dog is having difficulty with the long walks they once enjoyed, try taking your dog on shorter walks more frequently.
Senior dogs require mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise. It's never too late to teach your dog a new trick or bring home a new puzzle. There are numerous options for problem-solving activities for dogs. A puzzle feeder, for example, requires your dog to 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.