Dogs are America’s most popular pet. A Gallup poll found that 44 percent of Americans own at least one dog. By comparison, 29 percent own one or more cats.
But before you know it, your 10-week-old puppy has transformed into a 10-year-old senior dog. Senior dogs present special challenges. In turn, they deserve special treatment.
They don’t have the same activity level as vivacious puppies. They usually need to eat a different type of food. But with a few adjustments, you can make your senior dog’s golden years some of their best ones.
Keep reading for some of the top senior dog care tips you’ll find.
When Is a Dog Considered a Senior?
A dog’s senior status largely depends on what kind of breed they are.
Smaller dog breeds tend to live longer than large ones. For instance, a mastiff has a life expectancy of 7 years on average, while a toy poodle has an average lifespan of 13 years.
In other words, your mastiff could be a senior at age 5, while your poodle might not get there until age 9 or 10. But in general, you can split the difference. That means 7 or 8 is a typical senior dog age.
Trips to the Vet Matter More
Some dogs love to hop in the car and go for a ride, even if that ride ends at the veterinary office. Other dogs get car sick and hate the entire trip.
But either way, you need to take your dog to the vet for regular check-ups. Those are important at any age. But they’re downright critical for ensuring your dog gets the best possible senior dog care.
Health problems can escalate more quickly once a dog reaches a certain age. Their immune system isn’t as resilient as it used to be.
Some conditions are also more likely to pop up in older dogs. Diabetes is an especially dangerous condition. Poodles, pugs, and beagles are some of the breeds more likely to develop diabetes.
If your dog is drinking more water and going to the bathroom, it’s worth telling your vet. Other symptoms include eating more even as they lose weight.
This blog says you should also ask if your dog has a weight problem in either direction. Your vet may bring it up on their own. But if they don’t, there’s nothing wrong with broaching the topic yourself.
Adjusting to a New Activity Level
When your dog was young, they ran around the house at all hours and barked to his heart’s content. But as dogs age, they start to prefer naps to nighttime romps.
Taking your dog for walks is going to look different with a senior dog. If they loved the local dog park two years ago, they might still.
Or they might find all the noise overwhelming. Their old bodies may not be able to handle it, and that’s fine.
You can still grab the leash and take them on a walk around the neighborhood. If every day is too much, aim for every other day.
But if they want a nap, there’s nothing wrong with that. On your next lazy weekend day, feel free to snuggle up next to your dog and snooze for an hour.
A Senior Dog Care Diet
When dogs are puppies, they need more fat. But as they age, you should think about changing their food to something less fattening.
It’s OK to believe that your dog is cute when it’s carrying a tiny bit of extra fat. But that doesn’t mean you should feed them until they waddle everywhere.
Remember that an extra pound or two on your dog can feel like 20 or 30 extra pounds on a human.
Beware of table scraps. You may think an occasional treat can’t do that much harm, right?
But occasional treats can lead to begging. And if your dog begs, you can feel like you have no choice but to give them some of your dinner. For that reason, it’s best to never even start.
Vision and Hearing Problems
A dog can go blind as it gets older. Some dogs may even develop cataracts. While surgery is possible, it’s not usually recommended.
Why not? The surgery can be harder on the dog than being blind. Dogs are able to adjust to their condition with relative ease.
Your dog might already have selective hearing and refuse to follow instructions. But as they get older, it’s also possible that they just can’t hear what you’re saying anymore.
Talk to your vet about ways to make life easier for a dog with vision or hearing problems. For instance, a blind dog may do better if you rearrange the furniture.
But don’t rearrange the furniture too often. You can move a troublesome nightstand, for instance. But you shouldn’t move things around so often that your dog gets confused.
If your blind dog can’t jump on the couch or bed anymore, don’t fret. You can always buy a set of dog stairs and place them in your living room or bedroom.
Spending Time With Your Elderly Dog
Some dogs are easy to take care of even in old age. Then there are dogs who are both neurotic puppies and neurotic senior dogs.
You should do your best to meet your dog where they’re at. Dogs can pick up on your mood. Try not to be too stressed about the end of your dog’s life.
Chances are, your dog is happy with their life. They know when it’s time to go.
What should you do when you sense that time is fast approaching?
Take at least one day off work to spend with your senior dog. When they die, your dog won’t have any regrets about spending all those years with you.
You should do everything within your power to ensure that you send them off with zero missed opportunities on your end.
The Pleasures of Dog Ownership
It’s normal to feel grief when you think about losing your dog. But don’t let that sadness keep you from adopting another dog when the time is right.
Your experience with senior dog care may even prompt you to look into senior dog rescue. Senior dogs are harder for shelters to place, but you’ll know from experience just how rewarding it can be to share your home with an elderly dog.
If you’re not ready for another dog, it’s worth considering a different type of pet. Read our blog post on that topic for more.