Today, our Rochester veterinarians discuss when a dog is considered a senior, how to spot signs of aging, and the special care needs of an aging dog.
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. So when is a dog considered a senior?
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 are likely to notice physical and mental changes in your dog as he ages. While some of these changes are the natural progression of aging (such as grey hair around their muzzle) and do not require veterinary attention, others may require veterinary attention to ensure your pup's comfort in old age.
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 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.
Your dog's nutritional requirements will most likely change as he gets older. Senior dogs are more prone to weight gain as they slow down and exercise less. Excess weight gain can lead to a variety of health problems, including joint pain and cardiovascular disease. Speak with your veterinarian about adjusting your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a weight loss 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 age. Regular exercise helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and maintains the health of their joints. However, you may need to modify the types of exercise you provide for your dog. For example, if you notice your dog is having difficulty with the long walks they once enjoyed, try taking your dog on shorter, more frequent walks.
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.