If your once boisterous pup is now a little sluggish or your ball-crazy retriever can’t fetch for quite as long, chances are your dog is entering his senior years. Senior dogs require a different level of care than younger dogs and pet parents should be aware of the changes happening in their pooch. Along with recognizing these changes, fur parents should also be aware of some tips that will help make life easier for both dog and owner.
Let’s first define what is considered “senior” in dog years and then look at some tips to help take care of your senior dog.
Is My Dog a “Senior”?
Whether or not your fur kid is considered a “senior” will depend on his breed, age, health issues, and more. Generally, extra large breeds like Great Danes mature faster than toy breeds. An average Great Dane will reach his senior years at about six years old. Comparatively, a Chihuahua may not hit her senior years until 10 or 11. In the middle, mid-sized breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labradors are considered seniors around 8 or 9 years old.
In addition to breed, lifestyle plays a big role in how your fur baby ages. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise will lead to a longer, healthier life.
How to Care for a Senior Dog
Just like caring for our aging family members, aging dogs require a higher level of attention and care than their younger counterparts. If you have a senior dog at home, remember to take them to the vet regularly, adjust his diet, take care of his dental hygiene, and exercise him appropriately.
Schedule Regular Vet Visits
One of the most important things to do for a senior dog is to get on a regular vet schedule to ensure that all health problems are addressed proactively. For younger dogs, most vets recommend scheduling annual appointments, but for older dogs the appointments should be at least semi-annually. These appointments are especially important if your dog has a chronic health issue.
In addition to scheduling more frequent vet appointments, you should know how to ask the right questions to get answers that will benefit you and your furry friend. Ask for a complete body exam, which will put your mind at ease and guarantee that you are taking the best care of your aging dog.
Change Your Dog’s Diet
Your vet will likely recommend a change in diet for your senior dog. Most pet food companies make a variety of foods that fulfill different needs, including puppy, adult, and senior food. These formulas are designed to provide your pooch with the optimal nutrition they need at their life stage.
In addition, make sure that you continue to provide your senior dog with the highest quality food that you can. Dogs are mostly carnivores. Therefore, food that has any sort of grain as their primary ingredient will be harder for your dog to digest. A high protein diet is ideal for aging dogs. Your senior dog might also eat less than he did when he was younger because his metabolism is slowing down and he is likely less active.
Take Care of Your Dog’s Teeth
Dental issues can arise at any time during your dog’s life, but are especially common as he gets older. Dental diseases can cause unnecessary problems for your dog and can have worsening effects on the heart, liver, and kidneys. To prevent this, make sure to have your vet clean your dog’s teeth at your semi-annual checkups. You can also brush your pup’s teeth at home using specially-made toothbrushes and toothpaste (some even taste like bacon!).
Your dog’s dental health is an indicator of internal and external health and taking care of them is one more step towards keeping your senior dog healthy.
Some senior dog owners think that they don’t need exercise because they aren’t as agile, but this isn’t the case. In fact, regular exercise will help your senior dog stay flexible and improve his heart health. But make sure not to push your senior dog too hard when it comes to exercise. Some senior dogs can play at the park for hours, while for some a walk around the block is all the exercise they need.
These are just a few ways you can take care of your senior dog and provide him with the highest level of care. With proactive diligence and an understanding owner, a senior dog will enjoy health and happiness during his golden years.