At what age is a dog considered a senior? How can an attentive dog parent spot signs of aging, and what special care needs does your aging dog have? Our Seattle vets answer these questions in today's post.
How old is a senior dog?
It's probably common knowledge to you that one human year is equivalent to seven canine years. However, it's not quite that easy to determine a dog's age. Different dog breeds age differently from one another.
Generally, smaller dogs will not age as quickly as large breed dogs. This is a general guide:
Small breeds are considered senior dogs when they turn 10 to 12 years old.
Medium breeds are considered senior dogs when they hit 8 to 9 years old.
Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs at around 6 to 7 years old.
Signs That Your Dog is Getting Old
Your dog will start to experience physical and mental changes as they get older. While some of these changes—like the onset of grey hair around their muzzle—occur naturally as dogs age and won't require any special veterinary care, other changes might. This is so your dog can keep as much of their health and comfort as possible.
Watch for these signs that your dog is getting older:
- Gum disease or tooth loss
- Arthritis or joint issues
- Reduced heart, kidney and liver function
- White hairs on the face and muzzle
- Vision and/or hearing loss
- Weight gain or loss
- Reduction of mental acuity
- Sleeping or more difficulty sleeping
- Loss of muscle tone
Your Senior Dog's Care Requirements
There are several things you can do to help your pup maintain their comfort and well-being as they get older.
The first step to caring for a senior pup is to prioritize regular vet visits. 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 assess your senior dog's nutrition levels and mobility and provide recommendations for any adjustments that would benefit your dog such as exercise or diet changes.
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.
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.
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.
Exercise - Physical & Mental
Along with regular physical exercise, it is important that senior dogs also receive some sort of mental stimulation. It's never too late to teach your pup a new trick or bring home a new puzzle. There are lots of options for problem-solving activities for dogs such as a puzzle chew toy that will encourage your dog to exercise their mind in order to get a treat.
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, more frequent walks.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.