Today, our Sharpsburg vets discuss at what age a dog is considered senior, how to spot signs of aging, and the special care requirements that an aging dog may need.
How old is a senior dog?
You've probably heard that one human year equals seven dog years—but it's not quite that simple. That's because individual dog breeds age at different paces than others.
In general, smaller dogs do not age as quickly as large breed dogs. Here is a general guide:
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
You'll probably notice physical and mental changes in your dog as he gets older. While some of these changes are part of the natural aging process (such as grey hair around their muzzle) and do not necessitate veterinary attention, others may necessitate veterinary attention to ensure your pup's comfort as they grow older.
Some signs that your dog is getting older include:
- 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 in caring for a senior dog is to make regular vet visits a priority. Routine wellness exams for your senior dog allow 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 dietary and exercise changes that may benefit your pet.
Your dog's nutritional requirements will most likely change as he gets older. Senior dogs are more prone to weight gain as they age and exercise less. Excess weight gain can result in a variety of health problems, including joint pain and cardiovascular problems. Consult your veterinarian about lowering your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a weight-loss-specific food.
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.
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.
Exercise - Physical & Mental
It is critical that your dog maintains a regular schedule of physical activity as they grow older. Regular exercise keeps dogs' joints healthy and helps them maintain a healthy weight. However, you may need to change the types of exercise you give your puppy. For example, if you notice your dog is having trouble with the long walks they used to enjoy, try taking them on shorter walks more frequently.
Along with regular physical exercise, it is important that senior dogs receive mental stimulation too. 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. One example is a puzzle feeder that makes your dog work to figure out how to get their kibble.
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.