November is Senior Pet Month. We love our dogs and only want the best for them. In our eyes, our dogs will always be a puppy, even if they get older in age. Dog’s age faster than humans. However, just like us humans, we experience changes as we get older and will have different care needs as time goes on.
When Is Your Dog Considered a Senior?
When a dog is considered a senior depends on the size of their breed. Small dogs tend to age less quickly than giant breeds. The greater the breed’s weight, the sooner they will reach their golden years. For example, a Chihuahua may be considered a senior over the age of 10, whereas a Great Date may be considered a senior at the age of 6. Genetics, nutrition and environment can all have an impact on your dogs aging process.
What to Expect as Your Dog Ages
Each dog, just like humans, is different. We all experience different conditions as we get older. Here are some things to watch for as your dog gets older:
- Dental Disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Cloudy eyes
- Reduced hearing
- Muscle atrophy
- Lumps & bumps
How to Care for a Senior Dog
- Schedule regular visits with the vet. Take your senior dog for regular semi-annual visits. Not only are wellness checks important to makes sure your dog is healthy, but they help with early detection in illness. If an illness is found and treated early, the treatments can be more effective and help increase the quality of your dog’s life.
- Watch your dog’s diet. As dogs age, their nutritional needs change over time. Senior dogs may require less calories because their activity level has changed. Dietary changes may include adding more fiber to aid with digestion or decreasing carbohydrates to maintain an optimal weight.
- Brush your dog’s teeth. Dental hygiene is crucial as your dog gets older. It’s important to keep your dog’s mouth and gums healthy to prevent painful dental disease and decay. If you can’t brush his teeth, consider dental treats and toys that help keep the teeth clean.
- Give your dog plenty of exercise. Exercise is imperative to our senior dogs and their well-being. While they may not be able to run as fast as they use to, be sure to understand your dog’s limits. It’s important to keep up their mobility, move those muscles and provide an environment with both physical and mental stimulation.
- Senior-Proof Your Home. Remember when you had to “puppy-proof” your home? Now it may be time to “senior-proof” your home so that you can provide your senior dog with special accommodations. For example, non-slip surfaces such as carpeting or rugs will prevent falls and help maintain better traction. If your dog suffers from hip dysplasia or joint issues, consider a special ramp or stairs for getting in/out of cars or on the bed. Heated bed pads help with arthritis and achy joints. Keeping food and water in areas that are easily accessible for dogs who may be vision-impaired.
American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Caring-for-an-Older-Pet-FAQs.aspx (accessed Oct. 30, 2018)