What age qualifies a dog as a senior? How can vigilant dog parents identify signs of aging, and what specific care requirements does your aging dog demand? Our Springfield veterinarians address these queries in today's post.
How old is a senior dog?
You probably know that one human year equals seven dog years. However, estimating a dog's age isn't straightforward because different dog breeds age at varying rates.
In general, smaller dogs age more slowly than larger breeds. Here's a simple guideline:
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
As your dog ages, they will experience both mental and physical changes. Some of these changes, like the development of grey hair around their muzzle, are a natural part of the aging process and do not require specific veterinary care.
However, other changes may necessitate your vet's attention to ensure your pup's continued well-being and comfort.
Keep an eye out for these signs indicating your dog's advancing age:
- Gum disease or tooth loss
- Arthritis or joint issues
- Reduced heart, kidney, and liver function
- White hairs on the face and muzzle
- Vision and 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
You can do several things to help your pup maintain their comfort and well-being as they get older.
The first step to caring for a senior pup is prioritizing 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 recommend any adjustments that would benefit your dog, such as exercise or diet changes.
A proper diet benefits your dog's physical health and supports their cognitive function as they age. Like humans, dogs can suffer from conditions resembling dementia or Alzheimer's. To help maintain your dog's mental alertness, feed them a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and ensure they receive regular exercise.
Additionally, prescription diets and supplements are designed for senior dogs, targeting various age-related health conditions. Consult your veterinarian to determine if a specific diet or supplement is recommended for your dog.
As your dog grows older, their nutritional requirements will change. Senior dogs tend to become less active, increasing their susceptibility to weight gain, which can lead to joint pain and cardiovascular issues. Discuss adjustments to your dog's daily calorie intake, or consider switching to a weight loss-formulated food with your vet.
Exercise - Physical & Mental
Senior dogs should receive mental stimulation in addition to regular physical exercise. Teaching your pup new tricks or introducing a new puzzle can be done at any age.
Consider options like a puzzle chew toy to engage your dog's mind while rewarding them with treats.
As your dog ages, maintaining a consistent physical activity routine becomes crucial. Regular exercise helps them maintain a healthy weight and keeps their joints in good condition.
However, you may need to modify your dog's exercise regimen. If you observe your dog struggling with long walks they used to enjoy, opt for shorter, more frequent walks instead.
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 to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.
Is it time for your senior dog's wellness exam? Contact our Springfield vets to book an appointment today.