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? Here, our Concord vets answer these questions.
How old is a senior dog?
You've heard the idiom that 1 human year is equivalent to seven 7 dog years, but accurately determining a dog's age is not quite so simple.
Generally, smaller dogs will not age as quickly as large breed dogs. This is 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
Dogs will undergo physical changes as they age, externally and internally.
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.
Watch for these signs 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
There are several things you can do to help your pup maintain their comfort and well-being as they get older.
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 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.
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.
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
Along with regular physical exercise, it is important that senior dogs also receive some sort of mental stimulation. 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 in order to get a treat.
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.