Health problems in senior dogs
Senior dogs may have more health problems than young dogs, but these should not stop you from helping your pet live his best life.
Older dogs make wonderful pets. They sleep more (hello work from home), know where everything is, know all your friends and family, have a predictable routine and are, well, just easier. And, adopting an older dog can actually be easier than bringing a puppy into the home. Most adoption centres train the dogs that are in their care. So, your new senior dog will likely be potty trained, will walk on a leash and have some obedience commands under his belt.
How old is a dog when he is considered a senior?
Dogs are considered ‘senior’ when they are about seven years old. However, at the age of seven your dog is not “old”. The word senior merely indicates that your dog has reached a life stage.
What are the health problems of senior dogs?
When a dog reaches the age of seven or so (larger breeds have shorter lifespans than smaller breeds and therefore become seniors a little earlier in life), his body will begin to change. Grey hair, slight loss of vision and hearing, reduced activity and difficulty getting up from a long sleep are some of the signs of ageing. Moreover, at this age, your pet will also be more likely to start to develop serious medical conditions such as cancer, arthritis, dental disease, heart disease as well as kidney and liver disease.
How to take care of a senior dog
Despite being labelled senior, some older dogs are healthy and energetic and will live happy lives for many years. Make sure your pet ages well by feeding a life stage appropriate diet, preventing obesity by following the feeding guide (obesity increases the risk of developing many age-related diseases) and incorporating some exercise in your dog’s daily routine.
Other things you can do include:
Visit the veterinarian at least once per year and describe any changes in behaviour with as much detail as possible. If your pet is breathing differently, for example, take a video of the breathing so that your vet has as much information as possible about the symptom you are describing.
Reduce physical obstacles that can cause injury. Older pets are not as agile as younger ones. So, if your dog likes to climb stairs or jump on and off the bed or couch, either stop the behaviour by putting up baby gates or by putting pet stairs by the bed or couch. Baby gates are very useful for ensuring your pet stays in a safe area till you get home.
Give them space. Don’t expect an older dog to play or interact the same way they did when they were young. Remember, older dogs may have sore or stiff muscles and bones. If your dog does not enjoy playing with you as much anymore, respect their age and leave them be. Your vet may recommend a supplement to help ease joint stiffness and general body pain. An orthopaedic bed may also do wonders for your older dog.
Clean their teeth and cut their nails regularly. Clean teeth help to prevent dental disease (reducing vet visits) and shorter nails prevent slipping on tiles and other smooth surfaces.
Feed wet food instead of dry food for easier chewing, or mix dry food with wet food pouches. Tip: If your older pet spits food out, ask a vet to look at their teeth. Many older dogs have sore teeth and gums and can therefore not chew food.
When your dog reaches the ten to fifteen-year mark, place his basket and food and water bowls in areas that are easily accessible to him.
Give them attention. Despite their age, older dogs still love attention. If your dog is looking a little blue, spend some time with your dog. They may be unhappy because they feel left out (yes, dogs can feel depressed).
Enjoy your older pet!
Some information in this post is taken from American Kennel Club.