As we humans age, our dietary and exercise needs change. The same is just as true for dogs as they get older too. It’s important you’re aware of these changes in needs if you’re to provide the best senior dog care. Then you can make the required changes to make sure your dog is happy and healthy well into their golden years.
Senior dog care
Here are the most important things you need to know about senior dog care.
How old is old?
The first thing you need to know is at what age you should consider your particular dog to be “senior”. Different dog breeds age at different rates – some breeds live much longer than others.
As a general rule of thumb, smaller dogs tend to live longer than bigger dogs.
You can consider a small dog (under 20 pounds) to be a senior at around 9-13 years.
For medium-sized dogs (21-50 pounds) you can think of the senior age as about 9-11 years.
For large dogs (51-90 pounds) this becomes 7-11 years.
And for the giant breeds, old age may start as early as 6 years of age.
Visit the vet more often
As your dog gets older they will need more visits to the vet. An adult dog should have a scheduled vet visit every 12 months. Once a dog reaches seniority you should increase this to once every 6 months.
As dogs age they often develop typical ageing problems such as joint and dental issues. Your vet will diagnose and treat these and any other issues. In older dogs, there is also often a worsening of sight and hearing which your vet needs to keep an eye on.
Watch their weight
Dog obesity is much more common for more elderly dogs than for younger adult dogs. And obesity can be the catalyst for lots of health issues, including liver and heart disease. So you need to keep a good lookout for any signs of obesity as your dog gets older.
You should make changes to your dog’s feeding routine as part of senior dog care too. Switch to a “Lite” brand of dog food and adjust the amount you feed them.
It’s also a good idea to increase the amount of exercise your dog gets. If you do, it’s best to increase the frequency of activity rather than the intensity.
As always with an older dog, we recommend you talk to your vet about it before making any changes.
A senior dog is more likely to suffer injury. For this reason you should keep a closer eye on your dog than when they were younger.
As your dog reaches a more advanced age, all visits outdoors should be under supervision.
Exercise for seniors
When it comes to senior dog care, just because a dog is getting on in years doesn’t mean they no longer need any exercise.
In fact, keeping up a regular exercise routine gives an older dog an improved quality of life. It may even give them a longer life too.
You should keep a lookout for signs that the exercise is causing your dog distress though. Dogs are always eager to please their owners. Your dog will push through the pain barrier if they think that’s what you want.
If your dog limps, is short of breath or whines when you exercise them then you should take them to see the vet.
This doesn’t apply to dogs that are already elderly, of course. It’s something you should consider when your dog’s still a puppy though. The reason is that neutered dogs are less at risk from many diseases that can develop in old age. They also tend to be less stressed, and often live longer than dogs that aren’t neutered. So neutered dogs are often much better off in old age.
Many dogs suffer from brain degeneration and psychological problems as they get older. This is often a direct result of lethargy and inactivity. So make sure you provide your dog with plenty of mental stimulation. You can do this with games that make them think, such as making them find hidden treats. You can also get puzzle toys for them.
You should also keep training your dog, even in old age. Dogs of any age love to learn new things. So don’t believe the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”
Caring for your elderly dog begins the day you bring them home as a puppy. You should develop good habits throughout your dog’s life. Then as your dog gets older increase the amount of care and attention you give them. Senior dog care like this will help to make your dog’s golden years happy and healthy.