At what age does a dog become a senior?
While the old saying is that 1 human year is equal to 7 dog years, it's not quite true. The rate at which your dog ages will depend on their breed and size.
In general, smaller dogs do not age as quickly as large-breed dogs. Here is a general guide:
Small dog breeds are considered senior dogs around 10-12 years old.
Medium dog breeds are considered senior dogs around 8-9 years old.
Large and giant dog breeds are considered senior dogs around 6-7 years old.
What are some of the typical signs of aging in dogs?
As your dog ages, they will experience both mental and physical changes just like humans and other animals. Certain changes, like grey fur, should not cause concern and will not need geriatric veterinary care, while other changes may require veterinary attention to ensure your pup maintains its health and comfort as much as possible.
Some signs that your dog is reaching their geriatric stage include:
- White hairs on the muzzle and face
- Vision impairment
- Hearing loss
- Weight fluctuations
- Gum disease or tooth loss
- Loss of muscle tone
- Arthritis and joint issues
- Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function
- Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping
- Reduction of mental acuity
How will your dog's needs change as they get older?
As your dog ages, there are some ways that you can help them transition smoothly and keep them comfortable and healthy into old age.
Geriatric Vet Care
The first step to caring for a senior dog is to prioritize regular vet visits. By taking your senior dog for routine wellness exams, you're allowing your vet to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions and begin treatment as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will assess your senior dog's nutrition levels and mobility, and provide recommendations for any adjustments that would benefit your dog, such as exercise or diet changes.
Proper nutrition can not only help your dog stay physically healthy through their golden years but also help to improve their cognitive ability. Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from dementia or Alzheimers-like conditions. Feeding your dog food that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, along with providing them with proper exercise, may help them maintain mental alertness.
There is also a range of prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs that are targeted to the various health conditions that they experience. Speak with your vet to see if they recommend a specific diet or supplement for your pup.
As your dog ages, its nutrition needs will likely change. As senior dogs slow down and exercise less, they become more prone to weight gain. Excess weight gain 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.
Once your young pup becomes a geriatric dog, you will need to work on keeping them active with exercise. Regular exercise and activity can help your dog retain joint mobility as well as manage their weight. 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 frequent walks that are shorter.
Along with regular physical exercise, it is important that senior dogs also receive some sort of mental stimulation. It's never too late to teach your pup a new trick or bring home a new puzzle. There are lots of options for problem-solving activities for dogs, such as a puzzle chew toy that will encourage your dog to exercise its mind to get a treat.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always consult with a vet before making medical decisions for your pet.