As your dog gets older, it's important to consider their health and well-being as a senior pet. Our vets at Mankato are here to explain the needs of senior dogs and provide tips to help your furry friend stay healthy and happy during their golden years.
Senior Dogs & Aging
It's a common notion that one human year equals seven dog years, which is often used to estimate a dog's life stages and lifespan. However, it's not that simple. Various factors, such as breed and size, can impact how quickly your dog ages.
Typically, smaller dog breeds age at a slower rate than larger ones. But as a general rule, you can consider your dog a senior at around 10-12 years if it's a small breed, 8-9 years if it's a medium breed, and 6-7 years if it's a large or giant breed.
Veterinary Care For Senior Dogs
As your pet grows older, you may observe some changes in their physical, mental, and behavioral traits. These changes are typical for dogs getting older. Although some signs of aging, like a grey muzzle, don't require veterinary attention, pet owners should remain vigilant for indicators that a visit to the vet may be necessary. Some of these indicators include:
- Weight fluctuation (gain or loss)
- Poor or worsening hearing/vision
- Sleep abnormalities (sleeping too much/not enough)
- Mental dullness
- Dental disease and tooth loss
- Loss of muscle tone
- Arthritis and joint issues
- Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function
Book a wellness check with your vet if you notice these signs in your older pup. By taking your senior dog for routine wellness exams, you're allowing your veterinarian 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 dogs get older, it's a good idea to see your veterinarian on a regular basis for checkups. Besides an annual or biannual exam, it is suggested that pet parents get yearly blood work done for their senior dogs.
It's recommended that you do blood work to check your senior dog's white and red blood cells and their kidney and liver function to make sure that they're healthy. This is an easy way of being able to detect any disease.
Caring For Your Senior Dog
As your dog ages, their nutritional needs are likely to change. Senior dogs tend to slow down and become less active, making them more susceptible to weight gain. This can lead to a host of health issues, such as cardiovascular problems and joint pain.
It's important to consult with your veterinarian to determine if your dog's diet needs to be adjusted. This may involve monitoring their daily calorie intake or switching to a food specially formulated for weight loss.
Prescription diets and supplements are also available for senior dogs with specific health conditions. Your veterinarian can recommend a diet or supplement that is right for your furry friend.
In addition to physical benefits, proper nutrition can also help maintain your dog's cognitive function as they age. Dogs can experience cognitive decline, but feeding them a food rich in omega-3 fatty acids and providing regular exercise may help keep their minds sharp.
Exercise (Physical & Mental)
Just like humans, it's crucial to keep your dog active both physically and mentally as they age. Regular physical activity can help your furry friend maintain a healthy weight and keep their joints exercised.
However, it's essential to pay attention to your dog's comfort and abilities when it comes to exercise. If you notice that your dog is struggling with long walks or runs, try taking them for shorter, more frequent walks.
Slowing down or appearing reluctant to go on walks could also be signs of health issues such as arthritis or hip dysplasia. In such cases, it's essential to contact your vet immediately to ensure that your pet receives the necessary treatment.
In addition to physical activity, it's also crucial to provide senior dogs with mental stimulation. It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks or introduce them to a puzzle game or toy that they'll enjoy solving for treats or kibble hidden inside.
You can find many options to entertain your pup in pet supply stores and online.
Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable
Aside from ensuring they are receiving adequate veterinary care, nutrition, and physical and mental exercise, there are a few things you can consider doing to help your aging four-legged friend live out their golden years comfortably:
- Orthopedic dog bed, heated dog bed (or heating pad/mat set to low heat under a blanket in their sleeping area) for dogs with joint pain or stiffness
- More carpeting around a home with tile, laminate, or wood floors can reduce slipping or tripping hazards for your older dog (some dogs also do well with dog socks that have non-slip soles)
- Pet gates (or baby gates) can be placed at the top or bottom or stairs to prevent tripping or falling hazards.
- Improve accessibility with dog ramps to help your pet go up and down the stairs, on furniture, or into cars; elevating their food and water bowls can also help with neck and back pain.
- If your dog has vision issues, seeing at night will be harder for them; some nightlights around the home will help them navigate.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.<