As your dog gets older you may begin to wonder whether you will need to take any special precautions when it comes to their care and if there is a certain point in time when you should do so. Here, our vets in White Hall talk about when a dog is considered a senior, the signs of aging that you may witness, and how to continue meeting their needs as they get older.
What age is a dog considered a senior?
As your pup gets older you may begin to notice the signs of aging and wonder 'How old is a senior dog?'. You're likely familiar with the notion that one human year is equivalent to seven dog years. However, estimating the age of a dog is not quite that simple. Specific dog breeds age at a different pace compared to others.
Typically, the smaller the dog, the slower they will age. What age is a senior dog considered as such? Here is a guide:
Small breeds: Small dogs are considered senior dogs when they turn 10 to 12 years old.
Medium breeds: Medium-sized dogs are considered senior dogs when they hit 8 to 9 years old.
Large and giant breeds: Large breeds of dogs are considered senior dogs at around 6 to 7 years old.
What are the signs that your dog is getting old?
Your pup will experience changes that affect them both physically and mentally as they age. While some of these changes occur due to the natural aging process (such as grey hair around their muzzle) and won't need any specific veterinary care, other changes may need your vet's attention to help your pooch maintain their health and comfort as much as possible.
Here are some of the common signs of aging in dogs:
- 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
Caring for Your Dog Through the Golden Years
As your dog becomes older there will be steps you can take to help care for them and keep them happy and comfortable:
Ongoing Veterinary Care
Regular veterinary care on a routine basis is the priority when it comes to senior dog care. 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.
Meeting Changing Nutritional Needs
A good, healthy diet will not only help your pup to maintain a good weight and muscle mass but also can help them to retain cognitive function. Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from dementia or Alzheimer 's-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. Your vet will be able to provide valuable insight into whether or not a special diet would benefit your dog.
Don't forget that as your dog ages, their health and nutritional needs will change too. This means that you will also need to change their diet. As senior dogs slow down and exercise less, they become more prone to weight gain. Excess weight gain 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.
Physical & Mental Stimulation
While physical exercise is crucial for keeping a dog healthy and active as they age, mental stimulation is equally as important. 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 to get a treat.
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.
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.