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How to Take Care of a Senior Dog

Posted on February 11 2022

A senior dog resting from running around

Everyone, including your dog, grows old at some point in their lives. That cute little puppy who has been your constant companion will at some point show signs of physical and mental aging. Dogs of various breeds and sizes mature at varying rates. The sooner you become aware of the common indicators, the sooner you can assist your dog to age gracefully. 

Many dogs are now enjoying longer and better lives as a result of improved nutrition, exercise, and veterinary treatment. However, it's crucial to know that older dogs have different health requirements compared to younger dogs. You can better care for your dog throughout its golden years if you can answer the questions "when is a dog considered a senior? And how does it affect their health?”.

Calculating Your Dog’s Age

The most common theory comparing human and dog ages is one human year equals seven dog years. However, this calculation is not precise. The size and breed of the dog should be taken into account when comparing human and canine ages. Generally, smaller dogs age more slowly and have longer life spans, while larger dogs age more quickly and have shorter life spans. 

The rate of canine development is another aspect that influences dog age calculations. The first two years of a dog's life are when they grow the fastest, and subsequently, growth slows down. This is based on the assumption that the average human life expectancy is 77 years, however, it ignores factors like size and breed.

Taking size and breed into account, a more precise estimate of a dog's age in human years can be calculated.

This method either divides dogs into three sizes: small, medium, and big, or utilizes their predicted mature weight. Due to many variations in dog size and breeds, there is no precise solution for calculating a dog's age in comparison to a human.

There are so many dog breeds and sizes to choose from. What we do know is that dogs age faster than humans, and a one-year-old dog may resemble a lanky teenager with all four legs, whereas an older 8-year-old dog may walk more slowly and stiffly. 

Signs Your Dog Is Aging

Knowing that a dog's senior status varies based on the dog's size and breed, let's have a look at the signs that your dog is aging.

1. Cloudy Eyes or Nuclear Sclerosis

Eye cloudiness is one of the common signs in a senior dog but you might not detect it in time. While it's a pretty typical occurrence in older pets and has little effect on eyesight, it could potentially be an indication of cataracts or other eye illnesses, the majority of which are treatable. 

Your dog may also begin to run into things or have difficulty identifying a toy or other familiar objects on the floor. Likewise, this may be an indication of eyesight loss.

2. Horrible Breath

While bad breath in dogs is typical at any age, if your dog's breath suddenly becomes awful, it could be a sign of gum disease, tooth decay, or infection. As dogs age, their immune systems weaken, and they are less able to fight diseases as effectively as they were when they were younger. In addition to a thorough tooth cleaning, your veterinarian may order blood tests to rule out infection.

A dog with slow walk due to aging

3. Difficulty Performing Normal Activities

Basic activities like walking up the stairs, playing around, or simply getting up after a nap may be a bit challenging for an older dog. Their back legs tend to show signs of weakness which can result in fatigue. Even as humans, as we get older, our performance tends to slow down. That's the same scenario with an older dog. 

If you notice that your dog is in such a situation, you'll need to change your dog's routine to include slower and shorter walks or a new exercise plan in addition to any medication or supplements your vet suggests. 

4. New Lumps and Bumps

Fatty lipomas are innocuous in some dogs, but these lumps under the skin become more common as they get older. Not every lump indicates that your dog is aging, so it should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out the possibility of malignant growth. 

5. Change in Weight

Naturally, older, less active dogs gain weight, and you may need to change your dogs' food and exercise to keep them in good shape. However, if your older dog loses weight, you should be concerned. 

This change could be due to decreased muscular mass, which is normal in senior dogs, or it could be due to a loss of appetite, poor nutrient absorption, or a digestive ailment. Consult your veterinarian if your dog loses more than ten percent of its body weight in a few months or even a year.

6. Incontinence

There could also be an indication of urinary tract infection or renal disease in an aging dog. Scenarios in which this happens are if your dog suddenly forgets its house training or strains when urinating. Nonetheless, incontinence is common in senior dogs, and there are drugs available to help.

7. Depression and Anxiety

At times, senior dogs tend to experience depression and anxiety. If you're concerned about that, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe drugs to help with anxiety and behavior adjustment.

8. Emotional Maturity

Emotional maturity occurs in an aging pet as well. When your dog reaches emotional maturity, you get to see differences in sleeping patterns, eating patterns, and behavioral changes, among others. With that, you should be able to answer the question, "when is a dog considered a senior?"   

How to Take Care of a Senior Dog

Senior dogs can have the same amount of energy as younger dogs if appropriate care is given to them. Below are some of the things to consider while caring for your senior dogs.

A veterinarian taking care of an old dog

1. Veterinary Care 

Certain disorders, including kidney disease, hormonal imbalances, dental disease, liver disease, and energy arthritis, are more common in older dogs. Furthermore, physical traits in an old dog's body can change quickly, which is why it's crucial to establish a solid relationship with a local veterinarian and to take your dog in at least once a year for a physical checkup and any required testing.

Your veterinarian has a better chance of treating or controlling disease if it is discovered early. That allows you to provide a better quality of life for your senior dog. 

2. Dietary Requirements 

Obesity is a major issue in aging dogs. It aggravates arthritic pain and reduces the quality and length of life. As a result, keeping your dog at a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do. 

If you're not sure what your dog's ideal weight is, consult your veterinarian for assistance. Since dogs, like humans, are affected by the middle-age spread, feeding them a therapeutic weight-loss diet may help them lose weight faster and more successfully than feeding them an over-the-counter diet. This specific recipe can also be used as a maintenance diet. Consult your veterinarian to determine the optimum diet for your senior dog.

Canine cognitive dysfunction, commonly known as doggy dementia, is a problem for aging dogs. Likewise, your old dog may experience difficulty recognizing people. In combination with daily exercise, feeding a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help older dogs maintain mental wellness. However, you should consult your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your senior pets.

3. Adequate Clothing

You also need to provide your senior dog with adequate clothing to protect them from harsh weather conditions. You can get cool dog sweaters and dog coats from several online stores. Ensure you're getting the one that's of the highest quality that is suitable for your senior pet.

4. Good Shelter

Another way of caring for your older dog is to provide them with good shelter. By doing so, you need a good-looking dog crate accompanied by a quality dog bed where they can sleep comfortably with ease. This has a way of keeping them happy often even when they feel down.  

5.  Exercise 

Regular exercise is necessary for your older dog's joints to remain healthy. Allow your dog to decide on the type of exercise they need. Every dog is unique. One dog may enjoy running while another enjoys swimming. To find out which exercises your senior dog enjoys the most, try a few different ones. 

It's also crucial to keep challenging your dog's thinking with training. Older pets are capable of learning new tricks, and they enjoy doing so. It also helps in the maintenance of their mental wellness.

Conclusion

Your dog can provide you with many years of love and loyalty, so it's only natural that you want to make their golden years as comfortable and pleasurable as possible. Having gone through this guide, you should be able to answer the question, "when is a dog considered a senior?"  

Aging is a natural part of life, and with a little extra care and attention to your dog's health, these years can be "golden." The most important thing you can do to keep your senior dogs healthy is to consult your veterinarian if you notice any physical or mental changes in them. 

Senior dogs should be examined at least twice a year and these tests should involve blood tests, urine analysis, a comprehensive body examination, and other diagnostics. When you consult a vet, they will help in diagnosing and treating the underlying medical issues. 

You'll also get assistance in making decisions regarding your dog's future care, such as dietary and exercise adjustments, changes you can make around the house, or changes in their daily routine.

Suppose you'd want to shop for quality dog products for your favorite pet, consider checking out the collections at bitchnewyork.com. For more tips on taking care of your dog, check out the valuable posts on our blog.

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