Senior Dog Guidelines
At the age of about 7 to 8 years, most dogs enter the senior years. In large breeds, the transition happens even earlier, while small breeds are considered senior when about 10 years old. The end of the middle age and beginning of the senior years usually go unnoticed but expect gradual changes in both behavior and physiology.
Age-Related Changes and Health Issues in Senior Dogs
As in humans, age brings a number of changes in dogs as well. Not all are bad. Senior dogs usually have fewer behavioral problems, are calmer, have good manners, etc. Unfortunately, age can also bring a number of health problems which, if not treated/managed promptly and properly, can seriously affect your pet’s quality of life.
Many ailments that are more likely to affect senior dogs – such as arthritis, kidney disease, diabetes, dementia and cancer – are difficult to detect because they don’t cause any obvious physical symptoms. At least not in their early stages. As they begin to advance, however, there will be indications that something is wrong. For example, if your dog is getting increasingly inactive, shows no interest in going for a walk or/and is reluctant to move in the first place, he may be suffering from arthritis. On the other hand, not every change in your dog’s mood or behavior is a sign of a disease. Also, the mentioned health problems are not limited to senior dogs but can affect their younger counterparts as well. Nevertheless, the risk increases dramatically with age.
Helping Senior Dogs Stay Happy and Healthy, and Live Longer
Quality of life of senior dogs and their longevity to a large extent depend on their owners. To help your senior dog stay happy and healthy, and live longer you are recommended to:
– Provide your dog with healthy, nutritionally balanced diet. Please note that nutritional requirements of senior dogs are slightly different and that dogs with some medical conditions require a special diet. Contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or doubts about your pet’s diet.
– Make sure that your dog is getting enough exercise. It will help him maintain a healthy body weight and reduce the risk/help manage a number of health problems including arthritis and diabetes. Be sure to adjust exercise/physical activity and its intensity to your dog’s health and fitness level.
– See your vet on a regular basis. All health problems including age-related ailments can be treated/managed a lot easier if detected early. In addition to looking for obvious signs of potential health problems, your veterinarian will also look for signs of diseases that often lie hidden until reaching the advanced stage.
– Keep up with the vaccination schedule. With age, the immune system gets weaker which means that senior dogs are more likely to contract infectious diseases and develop a more severe form of illness. For that reason, it is highly important to keep up with the vaccination schedule.
– Contact your vet immediately if noticing any behavioral changes or other signs that may indicate a health problem. Pay especially close attention to signs such as lack of appetite, weight loss, excessive drooling, increased drinking and urination, persistent constipation or diarrhea, lumps and sores that don’t heal.