Our dogs will have different health and nutritional needs as they begin to get older. Here, our Astoria vets discuss when a dog is considered a senior, and how you can care for them in their old age.
When a Dog Is Considered a Senior
You've probably heard that one human year equals about 7 years for a dog, but it isn't quite that simple. This is because different breeds of dog age at different rates than others.
In general, smaller dogs don't age as quickly as larger dogs and live longer. Here is a general guide to keep in mind.
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 a Dog Is Getting Old
As your dog ages, you will likely notice both mental and physical changes in your pooch. While some of these changes are the natural progression of aging, like grey hair around their muzzle, and don't demand special veterinary attention, other changes may require veterinary attention to make sure that your dog maintains their comfort into their old age.
Some signs that your dog is getting older include:
- Loss of muscle tone
- Weight gain or loss
- White hairs on the muzzle and face
- Arthritis and joint issues
- Reduction of mental acuity
- Vision loss
- Hearing loss
- Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping
- Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function
- Gum disease or tooth loss
Geriatric Dog Care
There are several things that you can do to help your dog to maintain their comfort and well-being as they age.
Your first step towards caring for a senior pup is to prioritize routine veterinary 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 vet will also be able to assess your senior dog's nutritional needs and mobility and will be able to make recommendations for any dietary or exercise adjustments that may benefit your dog as they continue to age.
As your dog grows older, their nutritional needs will likely change quite a bit. Senior dogs tend to have lower energy levels than younger dogs and because of this, they are prone to weight gain if they are fed the same amount as they have always eaten. Excess weight gain can also contribute to other 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.
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.
Mental & Physical Exercise
As your dog ages, they must keep up with a regular schedule of physical activity. Regular exercise helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and keeps 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.
Alongside routinely scheduled physical exercise sessions, senior dogs must get mental stimulation too. It is never too late to teach your dog a new trick or bring home a new puzzle for them. There are lots of options for problem-solving activities for dogs. One example of this is a puzzle feeder that will make your dog work to get their treat or meal.
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.