Dr. Max Rossetti, veterinarian and owner of Rossetti Veterinary Center, notes that because dogs have such big hearts, they are going to try to keep up with whatever you offer them in way of activities and challenges, even as they age. However, like people, senior dogs just can’t keep up the same level of activity as a puppy would. Therefore, it is very important to keep some special considerations in mind for our four-legged family members as they age.
How old is a senior dog?
It’s generally well-accepted that one year in ‘human’ years is roughly equivalent to seven years in a dog’s life. However, this formula may not paint an accurate picture for all breeds of dogs. Larger breeds can be considered to be senior by age 6 or 7, while smaller breeds may not begin to slow down until about age 10. To find out how your dog’s breed measures up, check out the Dog Age Calculator to discover how old your pet is in human years.
What are the signs that my dog is a senior?
1. Vision and Hearing: Senior dogs often have poorer vision and decreased hearing, which should be kept in mind whenever you are interacting with your dog. If you notice that your dog seems disoriented, hesitates when in new places or around stairs, or becomes quite clingy, he may be experiencing decreased vision. If he is not responding to your verbal requests, doesn’t seem to notice loud noises around him, or seems surprised when you wake him up, he may be experiencing hearing loss.
2. Stiff Joints: Activities involving a lot of jumping may put too much strain on an older dog’s joints, so it’s very important to pay careful attention to not over-exercise a senior dog. In addition, arthritis may cause your dog increased discomfort and even pain. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for a senior dog for early detection of problems and for pain management.
3. Going Grey: Like humans, you may notice your dog’s fur going grey in particular places, especially around the muzzle and face. Why can’t we look as adorable as they do with grey hair?
4. “Senior” Moments: Like humans, dogs can experience increased memory loss as they age. Among other symptoms, they may experience difficulty recognizing family members, you may notice your dog wandering aimlessly every now and again, and your dog may have more ‘accidents’ in the house. Medication can help to alleviate many of the symptoms of memory loss in your pet, but prevention through regular exercise and mentally stimulating activities such as dog games and challenges can help your dog to remain mentally healthy late in life.
5. Generally Slowing Down: Racing around the living room may not be your senior dog’s activity of choice as he or she gets older. In fact, it may become increasingly more difficult for your dog to get around your home as he or she ages. If you notice your dog struggling to jump up onto the couch when it was once easy, consider purchasing a small set of doggy stairs or make a carpet-covered ramp to help him out. Going for long walks outdoors may be difficult for your pet as he ages, so you may want to consider purchasing a specially designed dog stroller so he can still spend quality time with you outdoors!
Having a senior dog is one of the true treasures of pet ownership. Although your dog may have slowed down and his health isn’t quite what it used to be, taking the extra effort to spend time, play games, and cuddle with him will go a long way towards helping your dog to ease more peacefully into his Golden Years. He has given you the best years of his life – but it’s our job to help make their last years the best ones yet.
Dr. Max Rossetti is a veterinarian and the owner of Rossetti Veterinary Center in Edmonton, Canada. You can learn more about Dr. Rossetti and his practice by visiting his website: http://www.petdoc.ca/