August 09, 2019

Older dogs can sometimes need a little extra care as they move through their senior years. They need a little more attention, and they may even need a helping hand from time to time. They also have some of the biggest, most loving personalities. Taking care of a senior dog is quite easy, as long as you’re prepared, and committed to giving your dog the best quality of life possible.


When Does A Dog Become A Senior?

As a general rule, dogs that are seven and over are considered senior dogs. However, it does depend on the breed of the dog. Large breed dogs tend to age faster than other breeds, so they can be considered seniors at around six years old. Smaller dogs may reach eight, nine or ten before they show any signs of age.

Genetics and the environment can also play a part in when your dog becomes a senior. Some dogs can have genetic conditions that mean that they show age-related illnesses sooner than most of their breed would.


Common Problems Faced By Older Dogs

Old short haired pointer with a graying muzzle

There are a few health problems that are common in older dogs.

Poor Vision And Hearing

It’s very common for older dogs to begin to lose their eyesight as they age. This tends to be something that happens slowly and isn’t often sudden and complete sight loss. Cataracts are common in senior dogs, and you may notice a cloudy film over his eyes. Some cataracts may be able to be surgically removed.

Hearing loss also tends to be a slow progression. It does tend to be permanent hearing loss, although sometimes the progression can be slowed by keeping your dog’s ear clean and dealing with any problems quickly.

Joints

Joint problems are very common in senior dogs. Many people recommend changing a senior dog diet to a joint healthy one. Nutrition can play an important part in slowing the joint degeneration.

Old black dog looking happy on a sunny day

Dementia

Dementia can be common in older dogs. You may notice your dog becomes disorientated in familiar places or seems a bit confused. The symptoms of dementia can be symptoms of other illnesses as well, so you should consult your veterinarian if you notice your dog acting strangely.

Heart Problems

Heart problems are common in older dogs, but they can be more prevalent in some breeds. Any signs of shortness of breath, unexplained vomiting, or sudden reluctance for exercise should be investigated by your vet.


Taking Care Of A Senior Dog

Worried looking floppy eared brown dog with a graying muzzle

There are a few changes you may need to make in order to keep your dog comfortable as he moves through his senior years.

Diet

There’s a lit of research that shows a link between a senior dog’s diet and his health. Senior dogs need higher amounts of protein, fiber, calcium, and phosphorus. They also benefit from glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids. However, their calorie intake should decrease, so senior dog food needs to be lower in calories than adult food.

Exercise

Senior dogs still need exercise, although you may need to reduce the length of the walks and increase the frequency of them. Depending on how your dog is overall, you may need to keep him on a leash at all times, or only allow time off-leash in a secure area.

You’ll need to pay close attention to your dog’s exercise program. If you begin to notice signs of exhaustion, or reluctance to go on walks, you’ll need to reduce the amount of daily exercise.

Oral Health

Oral health is important for all dogs, but poor oral health can lead to problems in senior dogs. Regular dental care can even increase your dog’s life span by two years. You can brush your dog’s teeth with canine toothpaste, give him dental-friendly chews, or you could try Coconut oil.

Senior dogs should have any potential problems with their teeth investigated by a vet as quickly as possible. They should also have regular dental checks during their routine health exams.

Old chocolate lab looking sad in a sunlit room

Regular Vet Visits

Check-up vet visits are useful for dogs of any age, but they do become more important when your dog reaches his senior years. Senior dogs should have a regular check-up around twice a year, but possibly more often if they have diagnosed conditions such as diabetes.

The vet will assess your dog’s overall health, including temperature, dental health, weight, body condition, mobility, and eye health. They may take blood tests to check on kidney and liver function. They may take chest x-rays if your dog has a heart murmur. Early detection of any disease, illness, or condition can be critical in treating it and keeping your senior dog healthy.

Parasite And Vaccination Prevention

It’s always important to keep up with your dog’s worming, de-fleaing, and vaccination program, but it becomes more important as your dog becomes a senior. Most vaccines will be given every three years, but there are some that need to be given every 6 to 12 months, such as the kennel cough vaccine.

Orthopedic Dog Bed

All dogs can benefit from an orthopedic dog bed, but they’re especially useful for senior dogs. Most experts recommend using a high-quality memory foam dog bed as it molds to the shape of your dog’s body. This keeps the pressure off the joints and any other painful areas. It can relieve pain, and increase the blood flow. Orthopedic dog beds can also help any breeds that are prone to joint conditions like hip dysplasia, such as German Shepherds, as they keep the pressure off the hips.

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What Should I Avoid With My Older Dog?

The simple answer to this is to just avoid things that make him uncomfortable.

Vigorous Exercise

When your senior canine friend starts to slow down, you should avoid doing any strenuous exercise with him. He may have been excited about a five-mile hike in his younger years, but it may not be such a good idea now.

Sudden Changes To His Diet

Old scruffy dog with grey whiskers looking serious in a park on a sunny day

Senior dogs do need a bit of a different diet to accommodate your dog’s changing needs, but this shouldn’t be done suddenly. When you’re changing your dog’s food, always do so gradually. Mix one part of the new food with three parts of the old food, and increase gradually until he’s only getting the new food.

Environmental Changes

It’s a really good idea to keep your furniture, and your dog’s food bowl, water bowl, and bed in the same place as he ages. Older dogs can have poor eyesight, but they will remember where everything is supposed to be. Moving furniture around can confuse him, and leave him walking into things.


Looking after a senior dog is quite easy, but it can mean that you need to make some minor lifestyle changes to keep him happy, healthy, and give him a good quality of life for as long as possible.

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