Old age is not a disease. Yes, your dog is now a senior that needs a bit more love and affection. But, that doesn’t mean it has to stop living an enriched, healthy, and happy life. Senior dogs often develop many of the same age-related issues seen in older people, but with good preventive healthcare, these can truly be the “golden years.” If your four-legged friend is now a senior, here are some helpful tips on how to provide it with the care it deserves.
At what stage of life are dogs considered senior?
Dogs age differently than humans, so it largely depends on the breed. Small breeds are considered senior around 10-12 years old, while larger dog breeds may attain their senior status a bit earlier, around 6-7 years old. Beyond genetics, diet and environment also have an impact on a dog’s life expectancy, which is why it is crucial to help your youngster keep a healthy track of life, so it would be in prime condition for years to come.
What are the signs that your dog is getting old?
Not all dogs are considered seniors at the same age, which is why it is important to notice the first signs of aging and take the necessary steps to keep your senior pet healthy and comfortable. That’s where we step in! Here are some tell-tale signs that your dog is reaching the golden stage of pup life:
There are many ways that aging can affect a pet’s behavior. Your dog may be less enthusiastic about greeting you or less active and playful. Don’t worry – just like their pet parents, dogs become set in their ways as they age. Their ability to deal with change decreases and they find comfort in their routines. It’s also likely that your dog will settle comfortably into this slower-paced stage of life, simply becoming a mellower version of its adult self.
There are degenerative diseases that are more likely to affect older dogs. Two of the most frequent are joint disorders and cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Dental problems and infected gums are also common health problems among senior dogs and their senses may not be as sharp as they used to be.
Breed-specific vet care
There some are breed-specific health concerns that can affect your senior dog’s quality of life. During vet visits, your veterinary team will watch out for abnormalities that may be breed-related.
Physical health and appearance
It’s not surprising that older, less active dogs sometimes gain weight. They can also lose weight since their senses of smell and taste have declined and eating isn’t all that fun anymore. Coarse fur, streaked with traces of gray is also how you might notice your dog is aging.
5 Tips on How to Care for Aging Pets
In your eyes, your furry friend will always be a playful puppy. However, at some point, signs that your beloved pet is reaching old age will appear. This doesn’t mean that you should begin to worry or become over-protective. All you need to do is adjust the daily routines, be a little more observant and take more care of their health. The right combination of love and attention can extend and enrich the life of your senior loved one. If you want your senior dog to live a long and happy life, there are a few things you can do to make sure that you’re meeting the specific needs of your pets, as they reach the golden age.
Diet and dog food for senior dogs
Your senior pets will need fewer calories, less fat, and more fiber as they age. Mature dogs often have problems with chewing, lack of appetite, and digestive difficulties, with obesity being the most common one, simply because they sleep more and are less active, but are still given the same amount of food. To make sure your dog’s diet is appropriate, check with your veterinarian before introducing any new food into your pet’s bowl.
When having a senior dog, you should double up on vet visits. As dog’s age, their immune system becomes weaker, which makes them more prone to disease. Get regular checkups once every six months. Remember, it is much cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it. A strong, regulated immune system gives your senior dog the energy of a puppy and keeps your tail-wagger vibrant and youthful.
While doggie breath isn’t uncommon, if your dog seems to suddenly have bad breath, it could indicate gum disease or tooth decay, since their teeth become more sensitive and prone to infection as they age. Chew toys are helpful, as is brushing their teeth daily to remove food particles and plaque. Dental health should be treated as part of preventive dog care from a young age so that your pooch would have fewer dental problems later in life.
Although they may be slowing down, senior pets still need regular exercise and mental stimulation. Take your dog on short, gentle walks. Wearing a coat when out and about can help keep them warm and dry, while stimulating toys such as food puzzles will help keep your senior dog’s mind sharp.
As dogs age, so do their coat and skin. A once luxurious and shiny coat can become dull-looking and brittle. Senior dogs can also suffer from dry, flaky, and irritated skin, so they really benefit from a daily brush and a weekly bath, with natural shampoos.
Just like us, senior dogs can sometimes get confused and may forget some of the old rules you taught them as a puppy. Your dog may forget simple things like how to navigate around the house or get lost in areas he’s not familiar with. Older dogs can also easily become anxious if they don’t sense their owner by their side. Be patient with your elderly pup. After all, this is their “second childhood”.
What is important for senior pet owners to know?
Our dogs give us many years of love and loyalty and it’s only natural to make their senior years as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Taking care of a senior dog may involve a little more work than you’re used to, but it’s time to return the love. The main advice we can give to any older dog parent is to just give them lots of love and attention.
Special time together, even if it’s just cuddling on the couch, is what senior dogs will cherish most. And, fortunately, that’s very simple for us to deliver! With some extra care and attention to your senior dog’s health, these can truly be “ the golden years.”
Jack was born and educated in Ireland and U.K. He has a varied education, mostly in engineering projects. Since then he has worked with a number of major companies with interests in various parts of the world. His personal interests include athletics, cross country skiing and especially long distance running. Jack has competed in many running events and some at an international level, including many marathons. He has always had a keen interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. More recently he has specialized in the areas of health and supplements, with a special focus on the immune system.