Caring for senior dogs
Caring for an aging dog that has helped you for years is normal. We can help you understand the basic problems of senior dogs and how you can help them.
At what age is a dog considered elderly?
As dog owners, we witness the joy and energy of our canine companions throughout their lives. But as time passes, our furry friends inevitably age and enter their golden years. The age at which a dog is considered elderly, often referred to as a “senior,” can vary significantly depending on the breed and size of the dog.
For instance, smaller breeds such as Chihuahuas and Toy Poodles tend to have longer lifespans and are generally not considered senior until they reach around 10 to 12 years of age. On the flip side, larger breeds like Great Danes and Saint Bernards have a more expedited aging process and might be deemed elderly as early as 6 to 8 years old. In general, most dogs fall into the senior category around the age of 7 to 9 years.
Recognizing the transition into senior status is essential for providing the necessary care and adjustments to your dog’s lifestyle. It’s a time when monitoring their health becomes even more imperative, as elderly dogs are more susceptible to age-related conditions such as arthritis, dental disease, and diminished hearing or vision.
Changes in behavior could also signal that your dog is aging. You might notice them becoming less active, sleeping more, displaying a lower tolerance for exercise, or even showing signs of cognitive dysfunction, similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. These behavioral cues underline the importance of regular veterinary check-ups to ensure that any age-related diseases are monitored and managed appropriately.
Senior dogs may require changes in their diet to accommodate a slower metabolism and potential medical conditions. They may also benefit from a comfortable and accessible living environment, as well as gentle, consistent exercise to maintain their health and mobility.
What Old Dog Needs
A well-balanced diet is essential for the general health and wellbeing of an older dog. Dogs’ metabolism slows down and their need for calories decreases with age.
As dogs become older, arthritis and other joint problems become more prevalent, and their joints lose some of their flexibility. Make sure they are comfortable by giving them the right joint care.
Regular Veterinary Check-Ups
To keep an eye on their weight, mobility, organ function, and dental health, senior dogs should undergo examinations more regularly.
Diseases of older dogs
As a dog enter their senior years, they become prone to various age-related diseases that can impact their quality of life. Understanding these conditions can help you provide the care and attention your aging dog needs. You should also pay attention to timely vaccinations for senior dogs (sometimes an older dog needs help even more than a puppy).
Here’s a list of common diseases that affect older dogs:
1. Arthritis: Just like humans, dogs can suffer from the wear and tear of their joints, leading to osteoarthritis. Symptoms include stiffness, difficulty rising, and a reluctance to jump or climb stairs. Management often involves weight control, pain relief medication, and sometimes joint supplements or alternative therapies like acupuncture.
2. Kidney Disease: Kidney function can decline with age, leading to chronic kidney disease (CKD). Signs of CKD include increased thirst and urination, weight loss, vomiting, and lethargy. Early detection and a diet low in phosphorus may help manage this condition.
3. Heart Disease: Aging can take its toll on a dog’s heart, with diseases such as mitral valve disease or dilated cardiomyopathy becoming more common. Symptoms often include coughing, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. Treatment may involve medications to improve heart function and reduce fluid accumulation.
4. Dental Disease: Many senior dogs suffer from dental problems, including tartar build-up, gum disease, and tooth loss, which can lead to more severe infections if left untreated. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are vital.
5. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS): Similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, CDS affects a dog’s memory, learning, perception, and awareness. Signs may include disorientation, altered interactions, sleep disturbances, and house soiling. While there is no cure, certain medications and environmental enrichment can help manage symptoms.
6. Cancer: Unfortunately, cancer is a common disease in older dogs. It can manifest in various forms, such as lymphoma, mast cell tumors, or bone cancer. Watch for unusual lumps, sores that don’t heal, weight loss, and any sudden changes in your dog’s health or behavior.
7. Vision and Hearing Loss: As dogs age, their senses of vision and hearing may deteriorate, which can affect their ability to navigate their environment. Although not always preventable, regular veterinary check-ups can help to identify and adjust to these changes.
8. Diabetes: Diabetes mellitus can occur in senior dogs, characterized by an inability to regulate blood sugar levels. Symptoms include excessive thirst, urination, weight loss, and lethargy. This condition requires lifelong management, including insulin therapy and dietary modifications.
“A dog is a pretty smart, but at the same time, a messy animal. Therefore, it should not be elevated to the level of a pet, but should be given an appropriate role in herding sheep, hunting or guarding territory or property.”