Senior dogs have different care requirements than those of a younger dog. This fact probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But how do you know when your dog is considered to be a senior?
It really depends on the individual dog. In general, giant breed dogs age faster than smaller breed dogs. A Great Dane is considered to be senior by roughly 5-6 years old whereas a Chihuahua would likely only be middle-aged then, and probably not considered a senior until 10-11 years. Large breed dogs fall somewhere in between. A Golden Retriever might be considered senior by 8-10 years of age. Genetics, nutrition, environment; all of these play a role in how fast your dog ages.
Your dog may develop arthritis or other degenerative diseases that cause him to slow down. He may not be able to walk as far or play as long. He may tire more easily. He may have difficulty getting up or finding a comfortable position to sleep in. He may become reluctant to go up and down stairs or have difficulty getting into and out of the car.
Without proper care, dental disease can pose a problem, particularly for older pets. You may be surprised to learn that veterinarians find evidence of dental disease in many pets as early as 2-3 years of age. If nothing is done to care for your dog’s mouth, by the time your dog is a senior, he may even have lost some teeth. Dental disease can be painful, causing your dog to avoid or have difficulty eating his meals. This may result in weight loss and an unkempt hair coat.
Dental disease is certainly not the only disease that can lead to weight loss. Senior dogs frequently suffer from kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease and other conditions that may result in weight loss.
On the other hand, some senior dogs may have the opposite problem. Some dogs will become less active with age, essentially becoming couch potatoes, and will gain weight as a result. Obesity in a major health issue in dogs of all ages and senior dogs are no different.
Ways to help our older pets age more gracefully:
- Regular visits to the Veterinarian
- Body condition evaluations
- High quality/Special diet
- Dental hygiene
- Appropriate exercise
- Special accommodations (ramps, softer beds, etc)