How to care for a senior dog

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Headshot of Old Black dog with gray on face

Are you wondering how to care for a senior dog? First, keep in mind that dogs, just like people, have increasing medical issues as they age. After all, dogs really aren’t that different from us are they? Just like us, they have four limbs, a head, a heart, lungs, a liver, kidneys and give live birth. Because of this, they take on much the same ailments as we do from heart disease to arthritis.

So now that your best friend is older and showing symptoms of one or more ailments, what do you do?

How do you know when your dog is a senior?

According to Lorie Huston, DVM, it depends on the individual dog, Generally speaking, giant breed dogs age faster than smaller ones. For example, a Great Dane is considered a senior by 5 or 6 years. Conversely, a Chihuahua wouldn’t be considered senior until 10 or 11 years old. Large breed dogs such as a Golden Retriever might be considered a senior at 8 to 10 years. Also consider that nutrition and environment can also play a role.

Signs of aging

  • Lower energy
  • Decrease in mobility
  • Stiff movements
  • Hazy tint to the eyes
  • Graying face
  • Reduction in skin elasticity
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased senses
  • More sleep
  • Thinner, duller coat
  • Loss of muscle mass

Tips for Caring for your senior dog

Feed your dog a high quality diet: Learn to read the labels. Remember, overweight dogs have a higher incidence of diabetes, heart disease, skin disease and cancer. Also, consider special diets for dogs with heart or kidney disease. This is something that you should discuss with her veterinarian. Read here for helpful tips on choosing the right dog food.

Keep her stimulated: Playing games with her and giving her toys keeps the mind sharp and the body active.

Make sure she gets her exercise: Just like humans, a dog needs to keep moving to stay limber and strong. Exercise keeps her lean and helps the heart. Every dog has a different requirement so pay attention while you are out with yours. You can tell if she’s overdoing it if she’s panting too much or slowing down the pace. Furthermore, remember to take it easy on those hot days!

Schedule regular visits to the veterinarian: She should see her doctor at least yearly even if she appears healthy. Remember, not every disease is apparent.

Supplements can help: An aging dog will often develop mobility issues which come fromBlack dog with gray face laying down with tongue hanging out full body shot arthritis and other joint diseases. In these cases, supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can help. Read here for more information.

Take care of her mouth: Chew toys and dental treats help prevent disease. Also, brush your dogs teeth if she’ll let you.

Provide her with special accommodations: Make sure she has soft bedding, If you have wood floors that are slippery, consider covering them with rugs or carpeting so she can get her footing

Observe her: When you pay close attention to her you will have more awareness of any developing problems. Watch for behavior and energy changes in your dog as these can indicate health problems.

Common diseases in senior dogs

Arthritis

Arthritis in senior dogs is common. Just as with humans, dogs get stiffer as they age. You may see this especially in the morning and during cold weather. As always, visit your veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment. Please click here for some of the top arthritis supplements for your best friend.

Cancer

It comes in many forms. Since cancer doesn’t always display obvious signs, it is essential that your dog has regular veterinarian checkups. Click here to learn more.

Dementia

Dementia in older dogs occurs just as it does for humans. Have you ever had a loved one who
suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia? Look for the same signs in your dog. These include confusion, disorientation, altered sleep/wake cycles, incontinence and appetite loss. In these cases, certain diets, medication and game playing can help. Visit your veterinarian as soon as you see any signs of dementia.

Dental Disease

This is the most common disease affecting senior dogs. Thus, a check of the mouth can tell you if your dog has problems in this area. If she has bad breath and teeth with tartar buildup, you know she already has dental problems. Furthermore, dental disease can make it difficult for your girl to eat and can affect vital organs such as the heart and kidneys. See more here about periodontal disease.

Diabetes

Genes, diet and lifestyle are the blame in this case. The symptoms include excessive thirst, urination and appetite changes. It’s essential this disease is detected early to avoid complications.

Head shot of older retriever type dog who is smilingEye Problems/Blindness

Eye problems in older dogs are more common with the “bulgy eyed” dogs like pugs and shih-tzus although any dog can be infected. Some of the ailments are cataracts, glaucoma and chronic dry-eye. Vision changes in older dogs occur just as they would in humans. Your veterinarian can perform a thorough eye exam.

Heart Disease

The most common form of heart disease in senior dogs is Chronic Valvular Disease (CVD). The heart valves become leaky and this results in a heart murmur. Subsequently, this can progress to heart failure. However, medications are very effective when CVD is caught early.

Hormonal Imbalance

Cushings Disease is the result of an overactive adrenal or pituitary gland and hypothyroidism comes from an underactive thyroid. However, these diseases can be detected if your dog visits the veterinarian regularly and takes medication.

Kidney Disease

Kidney Disease in older dogs causes weight loss, increased thirst and urination. Your veterinarian can diagnose it with blood and urine tests. Treatment is given to slow the disease and it includes special diets, medication and fluid therapy.

Liver Disease

Liver problems in older dogs are detected with simple blood tests. The treatment involves medications, dietary management and supplements.

Urinary Incontinence

If your spay female occasionally leaks urine, aging and hormone changes are likely the blame. In this case, medication can help alleviate incontinence in older dogs.

Conclusion

When you are  considering how to care for a senior dog keep in mind that it takes effort and a keen eye for any changes in her behavior. Health problems in older dogs will inevitably arise so you need to prepare yourself both emotionally and financially. Remember, in all cases you want to keep her comfortable and give her the best quality of life possible.

We love comments so please leave yours below. Tell us about experiences you have had with your senior dog.Headshot of old dark colored hound dog with gray face

 

4 comments on “How to care for a senior dog

  1. terri dixon

    Thank you so much for all your information on how to care for our aging dogs. mine is now 11 and I read your pages as to know in my heart that I was doing all that I can for him as I do not want him to suffer in any way . He is already blind but seems to be very happy knowing he is loved so much . Any comments on how to ease his misery if I have to leave him for short periods of time , I do get him a puppy setter always someone he knows ,but he cries like a baby until I return home and I have yet to find a doctor or dentist that will allow me to take him with me. Thanks again for sharing a great website.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Mitchell

      Hi Terri:

      Thank you Terri:

      Love is the best thing you can give your dog and it sounds like that’s what you’re doing!

      I don’t know a lot about this product but you might want to check it out for your pup’s separation anxiety:

      https://www.adaptil.com/

      Adaptil is a synthetic pheromone that mimics the pheromone mother dogs emit after giving birth to help their puppies feel calm and secure. Dogs of all ages recognize this pheromone throughout life.

      Reply
  2. Kai

    Hi! Wonderful article! My Maltese is 6 years old; I don’t think he is a senior yet. But I will definitely note down your tips and suggestions. Thank you for sharing!
    Of all the diseases that you mentioned, I fear dementia the most…I mean, my dog not recognizing me? that’s got to be the saddest thing in life…Do you know what are the possible causes of dementia? Can we prevent it? or is it genetic?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Mitchell

      Hi Kai:

      Thank you for your comments!

      The definitive cause of dementia in dogs is not known. However, In the dog’s brain, the protein beta-amyloid accumulates and then plaque is created. Also, it is likely chemical changes in the brain occur along with aging. Possibly the depletion of dopamine.

      I haven’t heard about it being genetic. 

      I have heard a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can help. Selgian/Anipryl is another option you can discuss with your veterinarian. This drug prolongs the activity of your dog’s dopamine.



      Reply

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