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Caring For Your Senior Dog

It is Guest Post Friday, and this time we have Sonia Singh, a large dog expert who writes the Big Dog Blog at Paw Posse. She shares some valuable tips for making sure your older dog is in tip-top shape throughout their golden years.

Caring For Your Senior Dog

Just like puppies need special food and health care to nurture their growing bodies, senior dogs need special care too. As they move from adulthood to golden years, their bodies change and so do their needs. Keep these tips in mind to give your dog the care they’ve earned.

What’s A Senior?

Before all else, know when your dog is considered a senior. It’s not the same for each dog – it varies based on size. Larger dogs are considered senior earlier than small dogs. The American Animal Hospital Association considers small dogs senior once they hit 10 years old, while a giant breed could be considered senior at just 5 years old. One way to estimate senior age is half of your dog’s life expectancy. Another way is to determine your dog’s relative human age (see chart below) and consider them a senior when they reach 50-55 “human” years. For the best estimate, ask your vet when your dog will reach senior age.

 

Dog_age_chart

 

An Annual Exam Is Not Annual

When your dog reaches senior status, he’ll need more frequent visits to the vet. Think about it this way: dogs age more quickly than humans. A vet visit once per year ends up being one check-up per 5-7 years’ worth of aging. Too much can change in that time, so take your senior dog in at least twice a year. You’ll stand a much better chance of catching problems early.

Know What To Watch For

Know what senior issues to watch out for. Arthritis is common, especially for large dogs. Also common but less recognized are cancer and organ disease, especially liver, heart, and kidney disease. The Morris Animal Foundation says cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs 2 years old and up, affecting 25% of dogs. AAHA says that risk increases for seniors, causing half of all deaths for dogs age 10 and up. With risks so high, it pays to make those frequent trips to the vet. Make sure to ask your vet what issues specific to your dog’s breed heritage and history you should watch for. Ask about preventative measures and what to do if you see symptoms. Many vets recommend a full blood panel as your dog reaches senior status so if any issues arise later, you’ll have a baseline of what’s normal for your dog.

The Diet Evolution

Remember when your dog needed puppy food? As a senior, he may need a diet change again. Your dog may need a smaller amount of the same formula, a special senior diet, or supplements to focus on problem areas. Your vet will guide you on what is best for your dog and when any changes should take place.

Sweatin’ To The Oldies

Don’t stop exercising your dog, even if he’s slowing down. Instead, adjust to his changing needs. Trade runs and jumping to catch a Frisbee for walks and swimming. These gentle exercises provide benefits your senior dog needs. Exercise builds muscle, which supports joints as they weaken. It also reduces the likelihood of your dog gaining weight, which aggravates tender joints and leads to heart problems, among other things.

Your dog’s senior years are a wonderful time. Just like when he was a puppy, he’ll have different needs for this part of his life. With a watchful eye and special care, your dog will be happy and healthy for a long time to come.

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