Aging is a normal part of life, and at some point all dogs become seniors. The important thing to know is that senior dogs have different care requirements than young ones.
As a dog ages, they become less mobile, their hearing and sight aren't as good as they used to be, and they are more prone to various diseases. Still, getting older isn't a death sentence and dogs can spend their golden years healthy and happy.
Not all dogs are considered seniors at the same age, so it is important to notice the first signs of aging and take the necessary steps in order to keep your dog healthy. To help you do that we will share some tips on how to take care of a senior dog.
All of them are important and will ensure that your senior pooch stays healthy, happy, and with you for many years to come.
What happens during aging?
As a dog ages, they will start to have less energy, might develop cataracts or hearing problems, and their organs will eventually stop working as well. This means that senior dogs are at higher risk of getting kidney or liver disease, diabetes, or become obese.
Not all dogs are considered seniors at the same age, and it mainly depends on the breed and the dog's unique traits. Small breeds are considered old when they are 10 or 11 years of age. Medium sized breeds, like Golden Retriever, become seniors at the age of 8-10, and giant breeds are considered old by the age of 5 or 6.
Read more: 18 Interesting Facts About Senior Pets
But remember, the genetics and the lifestyle of your dog play a great part in the aging process. That means that your Great Dane that is 6 years old can be completely healthy and show no tell-tale signs of getting old.
How to take care of a senior dog
Senior dogs have different care requirements than adult dogs and puppies. And, in order to provide the best possible senior dog care, you will have to do things a little bit differently in order to keep them healthy.
A balanced diet plays a big role in maintaining your dog's health even when they age. Older dogs are at higher risk of developing obesity since they no longer have the same levels of energy as before. So it is important to find the best dog food that is specially designed for senior dogs in order to prevent weight gain.
These are often low in fat and have fewer calories that will complement the nutritional need of your dog.
And since older dogs often suffer from some condition, you can consult with your vet if your dog has a need for a special type of senior dog food for their condition.
Regular exercise will help your dog maintain their ideal weight and will also have a beneficial impact on their overall health. You can talk to your vet and ask for a recommended exercise program given the health and limitations of your dog.
Be patient, start slowly and build your dog's stamina with regular walks and light jogs if they are able to run. As a dog ages, they have lower energy levels, so even though your pup was able to run for half an hour before, they might not be able to do it once they get older.
Regular vet checkups
Regular vet care is one of the most important things when it comes to caring for older dogs. As your dog ages, their immune system becomes weaker, which makes them more prone to all sorts of ailments.
That's why most vets recommend taking an older dog for regular checkups once every six months. This will give your vet a chance to figure if anything is wrong at the beginning and provide the best possible treatment for your dog.
Maintain oral health
Most old dogs don't get the proper dental care during their adult life, so it is not uncommon to see older dogs with a few missing teeth. Dental care is an important part of grooming and should be performed regularly from a young age.
To keep your dog's teeth healthy, you need to wash them every day, and if your dog isn't a fan, start giving them dental treats. Also, you should take your dog to the vet once a year in order to have their teeth professionally cleaned.
Vaccination and parasite protection
Your dog's age doesn't matter when it comes to flea, tick, and worm protection. So you should continue administering proper treatments just like before.
But when it comes to vaccines, older dogs don't require them at the same intervals. Usually once every three years is enough, but you should consult your vet since they will know what is best for your dog's individual needs.
As your dog ages, so do their coat and skin, a once luxurious and shiny coat can become dull looking and brittle. Seniors can also suffer from dry, flaky, and irritated skin that can become even worse if not cared for properly.
That means that you will have to brush your dog regularly, especially to avoid the development of mats and tangles. We also recommend that you use only natural shampoos that will nourish and heal irritated skin and coat.
Provide special accommodations
Older dogs often develop arthritis or other bone and joint problems that affect their mobility. Furthermore, a blind dog will also have trouble jumping on the bed or sofa at night.
In these cases, your dog can benefit from soft bedding and an easily accessible bed that won't require jumping or climbing. Also, climbing up and down the stairs can prove to be difficult and your dog should avoid doing so.
If there is no way for your dog to avoid stairs, you can buy or build a doggy ramp that will make their movements that much easier. Another solution is to simply install doggy proof gates and restrict their access to the stairs.
That will mean that you will have to move your dog's bed, food and water bowls downstairs if possible. Also, it is a good idea to place carpets and rugs around the house to help an arthritic dog gain their footing and ease their movements a little bit.
Some older dogs can go completely blind, so you'll have to make sure that they are able to navigate through the house. That means that you shouldn't move furniture because this will confuse your dog and make them bump into things unnecessarily.
Spend time with your pup
Aging is a completely normal thing, but it is very difficult and painful to witness all the changes that aging may bring your beloved dog. The best thing you can do is to live in the moment and cherish all the memories and every day spent with your pooch.
A geriatric dog can easily become anxious if they don't sense their owner by their side, and that makes them terrified. So try to spend as much time as you can with your pup.
Even though your dog might not be able to see or hear you, they still need your presence and attention in order to stay emotionally and mentally healthy. So instead of dwelling on your dog's age, take them for a walk, play with them, and give them treats.
Treat your dog like your best friend, deserving of your love and attention every single day.
Not all dogs age the same, what is certain is that they all get old at some point. Aging is the natural process of things and every owner should be prepared for it.
As a dog becomes senior, they will have less energy, more trouble walking, and may develop cataracts or hearing loss, among other things. This might sound scary, but in fact, these things won't happen overnight and your pup and you will have time to adapt to new circumstances.
Older dogs may have some special needs that need to be met and you will have to learn how to care for a senior dog. With proper elderly dog care and attention, your dog will maintain their health and continue to lead a happy life for many years to come.
About the author: Charles B. Hardy is a professional vet with a huge love for dogs, proud owner of a little Golden Retriever and founder of PawPawLover.