Our dog's lifestyles, veterinary care and nutritional needs start to change as they age. Today, our Los Angeles vets list the signs of old age and discuss special care requirements. We also share insight into when your dog is considered to be a senior.
How old is a senior dog?
The age at which your dog becomes a senior varies greatly depending on the dog's breed. Large dog breeds typically age faster. Here is a general guide:
Small breeds are considered senior dogs around 10-12 years old.
Medium breeds are considered senior dogs at about 8-9 years old.
Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs at around 6-7 years old.
Signs That Your Dog is Getting Old
When pet owners ask us, 'What age is a dog a senior?', many are concerned about when they might see symptoms of aging in their beloved pets.
Your dog's physical appearance as well as their behavior will change as they age. While the hair around their muzzle will gradually become grey, this is a natural progression of aging and does not require any specific veterinary care. However, other changes may be more drastic and additional vet care may be needed depending on the circumstances.
Some signs that your dog is getting older include:
- Loss of muscle tone
- Reduced heart, kidney, and liver function
- White hairs on the muzzle and face
- Joint and arthritis issues
- Hearing and/or vision loss
- Tooth loss or gum disease
- Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping
- Reduction of mental acuity
Care Requirements for Senior Dogs
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your dog feel more comfortable as they age.
Proactive Vet Care
Our veterinarians in Los Angeles believe that proactive, preventive care is key to helping your pet live a long, healthy life. By scheduling routine wellness exams for your senior dog, you're giving your vet the opportunity to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions or health issues, and begin treatment as soon as possible if required. Your veterinarian will also ask about your senior dog's diet, nutrition, and mobility, and make beneficial recommendations for adjustments to your pooch's exercise or diet.
Your dog's nutritional needs will change as they age due to their overall health and changes in exercise. Once your senior dog has slowed down they will become prone to weight gain that can cause other health issues, including joint pain and cardiovascular conditions. Speak to your vet about adjusting your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a food that is specifically formulated for weight loss.
Your vet may recommend feeding your dog a particular brand of dog food or nutritional supplements to help them continue a healthy diet as they age.
A good diet and proper nutrition will be of great physical benefit to your dog and may be able to help your dog maintain their cognitive function as they age. Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from dementia or Alzheimers-like conditions. Feeding your dog that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, along with providing them with proper exercise, may help them maintain mental alertness.
Physical & Mental Exercise
Physical activity remains just as, if not more important as your dog moves into the later years of their life. Regular exercise is important for them to maintain their health as well as to keep their joints healthy. However, you may have to adjust the forms of exercise you are providing for your pup. For example, if you notice your dog is having difficulty with the long walks they once loved, try taking your dog for more shorter, more frequent walks.
At all stages of life, mental stimulation is incredibly important. It's never too late to teach your pup a new trick or bring home a new puzzle. There are a variety of options available for problem-solving activities for dogs. One example is a puzzle feeder that makes your dog work to figure out how to get their kibble.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.