Dogs age more rapidly than we do and larger breeds age more rapidly than smaller breeds. In general, you can define a senior dog as a dog 7 years or older. But dogs are individuals, and will show signs of aging at different times and in different ways.
Just as with people, cars, houses, and almost everything else, parts begin to wear out as they get older. You may have noticed a bit more gray on Fido’s chin, or less spring in his step.
Senior dogs require different care than younger dogs. Below are some tips on caring for your senior dog in his or her golden years.
5 Tips to Keep Your Senior Dog Happy
You’ve always taken your dog to the vet for routine check-ups and vaccinations, but veterinary check-ups become even more important as your dog ages. It’s recommended the senior dogs see the veterinarian for a check-up every 6 months, even if your dog appears healthy. Age-related health issues can arise quickly, and your vet is trained to spot early warning signs. Between check-ups, if you notice any changes in your dog’s appetite, energy level, or behavior, check with your veterinarian.
Senior Dogs Need a Proper Diet
As your dog ages, becoming less active, he will require fewer calories. Watch for signs that your pet is putting on weight or not eating at mealtimes. It may be time to adjust the amount of food that you feed your dog, or it may even indicate a hidden health issue.
Overweight dogs can suffer from joint problems and existing joint problems due to aging can be aggravated by carrying additional weight. Supplements, nutritional diets, or other products recommended by your veterinarian may help to relieve discomfort and promote healing and mobility.
Other age-related health issues, such as kidney or heart disease, or deteriorating dental health, may also require special consideration to diet. Your vet can recommend a specialized diet for your senior dog or supplements that may promote better health and increased comfort.
It’s a Lovely Day for a Walk
Staying active is just as important for your senior dog as it is for you. Regular exercise helps to burn excess calories, maintaining a healthier body weight, tones muscle, and can slow the effects of arthritis and other joint issues.
Your senior dog may show less interest in a game of fetch these days, but he or she will enjoy a walk as much as ever. If you’ve gotten out of the habit of regular walks, begin slowly. A 10 or 15 minute walk is a good starting point. You can increase the distance as needed, but increase walking durations gradually and watch your dog closely for signs of fatigue or discomfort.
Safety and Comfort
Your senior dog may experience deteriorating sight or hearing. Frequent veterinary check-ups can help to make you aware of these issues early. There may be treatments available to help with issues such as cataracts.
There are steps you can take to make your home safer for your senior dog. Be aware of sharp edges or hard objects in your home that could injure your dog and look for ways to reduce risk to your pet. Also consider using pet gates to create a safe space for your senior dog.
Best Friends for Life
He or she may have slowed down a bit, but your senior dog hasn’t stopped enjoying your affection. A scratch under the chin or a rub of the belly will remind both you and your dog of the special bond you’ve built over the years, and will strengthen that bond. In those shared moments, your senior dog truly is your best friend.
If you have questions on caring for your senior dog or need to schedule a check up, contact our Fort Lauderdale veterinarians. We’re here to help!