When is a dog considered a senior?
At what age your dog is considered geriatric or senior is somewhat dependent on your individual dog’s physical and mental condition.
However, in general, larger dogs age more rapidly than do smaller dogs.
As a guideline:
- a dog whose ideal adult weight is at least 50 pounds will generally be considered geriatric at about 7 years old
- a dog whose ideal weight is between 20 to 50 pounds is generally considered geriatric at about 9 years old
- a dog who weights below 20 pounds is usually considered geriatric at about 10 years old
Because geriatric dogs – just like geriatric humans – have distinct needs and concerns, here are some tips to make sure your dog’s golden years are indeed golden.
Tip 1: Exercise your old dog
Your older dog should still have opportunities to get plenty of fresh air and fun outside. However, she might not be able to keep up with you like she used to.
It is up to you to pay attention to your senior dog to know your dog’s limits and take care not too push to hard.
Hot and cold tolerance changes
As your dog ages, her tolerance for cold and heat tend to decline. Make sure to limit her time spent in hot or very cold weather. You might even want to invest in a doggie jacket for when it is very cold outside.
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Bathroom Time gets difficult
Your older dog might have difficulty holding her bladder or bowels for as long as she used to.
To avoid undue stress on your dog’s bladder and intestines and to avoid household accidents, you should plan on giving your older dog additional bathroom breaks each day.
Getting Around the House
Your older dog might be less steady on her feet than she was as a younger dog.
Bare floors can pose a particular problem as they tend to be a bit slippery for dogs.
You might consider installing non-skid runners or area rugs in places that your senior dog will be walking on frequently.
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Similarly, many older dogs have trouble climbing up on couches and beds. If your dog is used to snoozing on the bed or couch, there are ramps you can buy that will allow her easy access on and off the bed.
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Or, you can just create a nice nesting place or special doggie bed for her on the floor.
Senior dog’s nutrition
Proper nutrition is of vital importance to the older dog. Your vet will best be able to advise you on your senior dog’s specific nutritional needs and if there are any supplements that will help her keep her quality of life.
In general, the goal will be to provide your dog with a highly digestible diet with fewer total calories than would be needed for a canine maintenance diet.
Your older dog should visit the vet twice a year for general geriatric check ups.
During these visits, your vet should give your dog a comprehensive check-up to identify any emerging geriatric problems and to try to address any issues as early as possible.
In between vet check-ups, perform regular physical inspections on your dog. Pay special attention to lumps and bumps, areas on your dog that seem tender to the touch, and any wounds that do not seem to be healing.
You should also monitor your dog’s eating and drinking habits and her weight. Also, look for signs and signals that your dog may be unsteady on her feet or have problems seeing or hearing. Any significant changes need to be brought to your vet’s attention.
Usual conditions on geriatric dogs
Some conditions that appear more frequently in geriatric dogs include:
- Urinary Incontinence
- Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome
- Hearing Loss
- Kidney Failure
- Cancers such as Osteosarcomas, Fibrosarcomas and Adenocarcinomas