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 Riverside County vets answer these questions in today's post.
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.
The average lifespan of a smaller dog is typically longer than that of a large breed dog. The following serves as 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
As they age, your dog will begin to undergo both mental and physical changes. 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.
Keep an eye out for the following indicators 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
As your dog gets older, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that they continue to enjoy a high level of comfort and overall health.
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 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.
In addition, there is a wide selection of prescription diets and supplements that can be purchased for senior dogs. These diets and supplements are designed to treat the various health conditions that senior dogs go through. Have a conversation with your veterinarian to find out if they have any specific dietary or nutritional supplement recommendations for your canine companion.
As your dog ages, their nutrition needs will likely change. 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.
Exercise - Physical & Mental
It is essential for senior dogs to have some form of mental stimulation in addition to the regular physical activity that they get. You can always teach your dog a new trick or bring home a new puzzle; it's never too late to do either. You can choose from a wide variety of options for activities that involve problem-solving for dogs, such as a puzzle chew toy, which will motivate your dog to engage in mental activity in order to earn a reward.
As your dog ages, it is important that they 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.