We wish our pups would stay young and spry forever, but they will get older. Our Seattle vets discuss when a dog is considered senior and how to keep your aging dog comfortable.
How old is a senior dog?
You might have heard the saying that one human year is equivalent to seven dog years, but it's not entirely accurate. The aging process varies among different dog breeds. Generally, smaller dogs age more slowly compared to large breed dogs.
Here's a general guide to understand it better:
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
As your dog ages, you'll notice various changes in their body and mind. Some of these changes, like grey hair around their muzzle, are normal with aging and don't need special vet care. However, certain changes may require veterinary attention to ensure your pup remains comfortable as they age.
Here are some signs that your dog is getting older:
- 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.
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 also assess your senior dog's nutrition and mobility and make recommendations for diet or exercise adjustments that may benefit your dog.
As your dog gets older, their nutritional needs will change. Senior dogs tend to slow down and exercise less, which can make them more likely to gain weight. This excess weight can lead to health problems like joint pain and heart issues. To ensure your dog stays healthy, talk to your vet about adjusting their daily calorie intake or switching to a weight loss-specific food.
For senior dogs, there are specialized prescription diets and supplements available that target various health conditions they may experience. Discuss with your vet to find out if your pup could benefit from a specific diet or supplement.
In addition to the physical advantages of a good diet, proper nutrition may also support your dog's cognitive function as they age. Dogs, like humans, can face cognitive decline similar to dementia or Alzheimer's. Feeding them food rich in omega-3 fatty acids and providing regular exercise can help maintain their mental alertness.
Exercise - Physical & Mental
Keeping your aging dog active and mentally stimulated is crucial for their well-being. Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and keeps their joints in good shape. If your dog struggles with long walks, opt for more frequent shorter walks. Besides physical activity, mental stimulation is equally important for senior dogs. You can teach them new tricks or introduce puzzle games like a puzzle feeder to keep their minds engaged.
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.