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Written by Vet Tech

Caring For A Senior Dog – Here Is What You Should Know

Amber LaRock
Written by: Amber LaRock, Vet Tech
Around the age of seven, the majority of dogs go from adult dogs to senior dog category. Read on to see how you should treat a senior dog.

If you have a senior dog in your life, you’ve likely enjoyed many long years with your beloved companion. Though your pup may have once been young and spry, they are likely starting to slow down as the years go on.

In this article, we’ll dive into the topics to be aware of when caring for a senior dog, and ways you can enrich their daily life.

What Is Considered A Senior Dog?

Not all dogs are considered seniors at the same age. While some breeds may be considered senior in their early teens, others can be considered a senior as early as 5 years of age.

This title will depend on their particular breed, their age, their size, and their overall health.

Just so you have a better idea, we’ll list the standard age of seniors based on size:

  • Small breeds weighing up to 25 pounds: 10-11 years
  • Medium sized breeds up 25-50 pounds: 8-10 years
  • Large breeds weighing 50-80 pounds: 6-8 years
  • Extra large breeds 80 pounds and higher: 5-6 years

While this is not always the case, it’s safe to say that the larger the breed, the shorter their average lifespan.

Large breed dogs also struggle more with joint pain and chronic aches and pain, so it’s important to be aware of the extra care that large breed dogs may require.

How Do You Know That A Senior Dog Is Struggling?

Dogs can be much harder to read when it comes to their physical struggles. It’s not often obvious when a dog is experiencing discomfort, and will usually present in more subtle ways. Some possible signs that your senior dog is beginning to struggle include:

  • Slower getting up in the morning
  • Slowing down on walks
  • Change in appetite
  • Urinating or defecating inside your home
  • Irritability
  • Stiffness
  • Weight loss
  • Limping
  • Licking of a joint frequently
  • Crying out when switching positions, standing up, or upon the activity
  • Muscle loss
  • Changes in hearing or vision
  • Swollen joints
  • Appearing disconnected or senile
  • Bad breath
  • Disinterest in physical activities
  • Hesitation to jump up on furniture, into the car, etc.

As you can see, some of the signs of health deterioration can be a bit more discreet than you would ever expect.

If your dog is displaying any of the above symptoms, it’s time to visit your vet for a senior check-up.

Common Ailments Of Senior Dogs

Similar to us, our dogs will begin to show their age as they hit their senior years. While these conditions can range from standard aging to serious illness, there are some situations that become more common as your dog gets older.

Some common ailments to be aware of in senior dogs include:

  • Vision loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Arthritis
  • Joint disease
  • Changes in weight (weight loss or obesity)
  • Dental disease
  • Dementia
  • Serious medical conditions (kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, etc.)

As you can see, there are many conditions that can begin to affect our dogs as they age. While some of these conditions will need to be managed by your vet, there are some things you can change on your own.

Starting Joint Supplements

Joint supplements can enrich any dog’s life, but they are truly a lifesaver for senior dogs.

While the body does produce these chemicals that are present in joint medications, it becomes quite difficult for the body to keep up once a joint has already been damaged due to old age or injury.

When a body is healthy and without joint damage, the normal amounts of glucosamine, chondroitin, and other building blocks are able to effectively manage the joints.

Once the joints have become compromised, a dog’s body is unable to produce enough pain-relieving chemicals to keep up with the discomfort and joint damage.

By adding a joint supplement to their daily routine, you are giving them the extra support they need to build back the strength in their joints and keep them as pain-free as possible.

Joint supplements will help restore joint strength, reverse some previous damage, and help relieve the daily pain that a senior pup may feel each day.

By giving them joint support, you know you are doing everything possible to extend their comfort and happiness.

Keep in mind that most joint supplements require a 2-3 weeks loading dose in order to see results.

While the relief may not be instant, this loading dose pays off drastically for overall comfort.

When it’s time to choose a joint supplement for your furry friend, you should look for the following ingredients.

  • Glucosamine hydrochloride
  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
  • Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASU’s)
  • Green lipid mussel
  • Turmeric

Changes In Their Home & Routine

Dogs are similar to us in the sense that some tasks become more challenging as they age. Luckily, there are simple changes you can make around your home that can make their days easier in their senior years.

  • If you have a home with wood floors, consider putting down the carpet in the areas in which your dog frequents. Carpets will help prevent falls, help them gain a bit more traction, and will make their lives easier as they experience joint pain.
  • Consider giving them raised food and water bowls if you haven’t already. Leaning down for each of their meals can put unnecessary strain on their neck, so a raised food and water dish can make their meals more comfortable.
  • If your dog still jumps on the couch or up onto any high surface, consider offering them steps to their favorite places. Jumping can cause discomfort as they age and begin to experience joint discomfort.
  • Make sure to either offer your dog dental chews to help break down plaque on their teeth or consider daily teeth brushing to prevent the progression of dental disease. This is also a great way to keep up with their dental health between veterinary visits.
  • Try your best to keep their nails short and trim, as this can cause even more of a challenge when they walk if their nails become too long.
  • If it seems like your dog is losing their vision, try not to rearrange your home. They often become comfortable with their normal surroundings, and moving around furniture can be challenging if they are already having difficulty with their eyesight.

Visiting The Vet

If you have a senior pup in your life, you can expect to visit your regular veterinarian more frequently. Just like with humans, their health will likely decline at some point during their senior years.

While a health decline is inevitable, we can still try our best to keep our elderly dogs comfortable.

By keeping up with their senior exams you can detect conditions as they develop, and determine a plan of action for any conditions that you are already aware of.

Routine senior care at your veterinarian typically includes:

  • Senior blood work
  • Yearly physical exams
  • X-rays if joint pain is present
  • Possible medications when needed

While this will vary from dog to dog, it’s best to be prepared for possible vet visits as your dog enters their senior years.

The Bottom Line

While it’s a frightening thought to picture our dogs aging, it doesn’t have to be.

As long as you are prepared for the ways in which you can make their lives easier, your pup will have plenty of wonderful years!