Seeing your dog reach seniorhood is a rewarding feeling. However, it can be challenging to witness them start to slow down a little. When your dog officially reaches senior status will depend on its size. Large breed dogs are considered seniors around age seven or eight, while medium and small breed dogs become seniors later, around age 10 or 11.
Of course, just because your dog hits a certain age does not mean their health will start to go downhill overnight.
With dogs, as with people, ageing is often a slow and gradual process that begins with subtle physical and behavioural changes.
By taking care of your senior dog properly from the outset, you can help manage this process — and ensure that your pup continues to live their best life, regardless of age.
Here are some ways to care for your ageing dog and keep them healthy and happy as they face some of the challenges that come with being a senior.
1. Set Up Semi-Annual Vet Visits Now is a good idea to increase your dog’s wellness exams from once a year to twice a year. Doing so will help establish baselines for your pet’s health and ensure that “clinically silent health abnormalities” are caught sooner rather than later.
2. Stick to a Healthy Diet It may be tempting to start indulging your pet more in their old(er) age, but it is more important than ever to keep their diet healthy and balanced. Too much fatty or processed food at this stage in their life could lead to inflammation and weight gain, both of which can decrease your dog’s quality of life.
3. Introduce Supplements In addition to maintaining the same nutritious diet they are used to, talk to your vet about introducing certain supplements, such as fish oil (good for bones, joints, skin, and coat), glucosamine (good for joints), and/or probiotics (good for digestive health). With regular consumption over time, supplements like these may be able to make a big difference in your dog’s health, and they can often just be added to their regular meals.
4. Keep an Eye Out for Subtle Signs of Discomfort Dogs cannot talk, so it is our job as their caregivers to watch out for signs they might be in distress. Some things to look for include limping, difficulties changing position, difficulties climbing stairs or jumping, and lying down when eating or drinking—all of which suggest that your pup requires a visit to the vet.
5. Monitor (and Mix Up) Your Dog’s Activity Levels Just because your dog is a senior doesn’t mean that playtime and walks will come to a stop. It does, however, mean that they might need some more encouragement to stay active. Follow their lead regarding the length of activities and do not force them to overdo it. You can also try out some new activities. Swimming, for example, is excellent for weight management and your dog’s joints.
6. Play Some Brain Games Mental exercise is just as crucial as physical exercise for your dog’s well-being. Help keep their brain sharp with stimulating activities like puzzle toys, hide-and-seek, and treat “scavenger hunts” around the house. These workouts for the mind are key to keeping your dog in tip-top cognitive shape, and as a bonus, they’re a lot of fun for both of you.
Your dog’s needs will inevitably evolve as they age.
Pay close attention, and be sure to show them all of the love they deserve. Spending time together—and being appreciative for every moment—is the best way to enjoy your dog’s senior years.