In order to help our dogs live their best life we have to know what to plan for as they age and grow. Once we are out of puppyhood, it is easy to forget to be on the lookout for senior years before they hit to ensure we are helping them have the best transition into the golden years.
Many factors will affect when your pup is considered a senior. Breed, size, and lifestyle all play a part. Small dogs generally live longer and therefore aren’t considered a senior until later on. Large breeds can be considered senior much younger. Take for example, Great Danes are considered seniors at 5 years old, while a chihuahua is a senior once they reach about 10 years old. Also knowing your breed or mix of breeds can help determine when senior cares should begin, even with dogs in the same size range. Labradors are considered seniors at seven years, while German Shorthaired Pointers begin their senior years at nine years old.
Knowing your dog’s breed or mix of breeds will also point you in a direction of what health issues to look out for. Many breeds are predisposed to have certain health problems as they age. Familiarize yourself with the possible health problems and their symptoms so you can catch symptoms as soon as they start to help develop a plan to keep your dog comfortable. Some health issues may also be prevented with supplements or preventative care. The sooner you know what your dog is predisposed for, the sooner you can help to prevent them. One example of this is joint issues, which are common in larger dogs. Dogs can take glucosamine and fish oil supplements in their young adult life. These can be paired with limiting strenuous activities that put extra stress on joints to hopefully put off the onset of problems.
As your dog is in the senior years, it is important to start taking your pets in for semi-annual check ups, even if they don’t seem ill. This will help to catch any developing issues early, sometimes prior to symptoms being shown. When you are able to catch issues sooner, generally better outcomes can be expected. Open conversations with your vet to know what to look out for. It is also good to start thinking and planning for vet bills and decisions that will come down the road. Consider looking up the annual costs of some senior care, and begin saving for it early.
A common issue for our pets as they get old is mobility issues. As they start to age, consider adding ramps or stairs to places that they generally jump down from, especially cars. Jumping down onto pavement is tough on joints! Add rugs if you notice your pet struggling on hardwood floors. Also, know that it can be from many causes, such as nerve pain or joint pain or even neurological issues. So checking out when you notice these symptoms to determine the root of the pain will help to keep your pet healthy and happy.
As dogs age into seniors, it is important also to remember that they may have some behavior changes as well. Remember to keep with your house rules, otherwise they will learn that they can get away with not following them. Its easy to look at them and feel like giving them the last bit of turkey off your plate, but later you’ll notice they sit and beg more! They will also lose eyesight and hearing- just like senior people! If you notice they are ignoring common commands or sayings, sleeping through you coming home, or bumping into items make sure to accommodate for their hearing and sight loss.
Remember to keep your seniors active- but with appropriate exercise. This may mean shorter walks instead of a run, but movement will help keep those joints moving! Make sure they are maintaining a healthy weight. If they stop finding their meal time as appetizing, you can add water to their kibble or even some bone broth may help them find it more appealing.
Hopefully with these tips you and your dog can enjoy those wonderful senior years!