Your seven-year old dog might appear as energetic as a puppy, but don’t let this boundless energy fool you. We hate to tell you this, but a seven-year old dog is considered to be a senior dog. With this statistic in mind, we want you to be aware of how you can care for the health of your senior dog. Just as humans develop age-related health concerns, the same holds true for dogs. Learn how to care for your senior dog’s health and be ready with your questions at the next vet visit. Now, before we go any further, we do want to make sure that you’re not looking at your seven-year old dog and worrying about her health. Seven is just a benchmark age – just like 65 is for humans. Your dog, regardless of her age can live an active and full life – we just want you to have the knowledge you need to care for your dog as she ages.
What Happens as Your Dog Ages?As your dog ages, she will display outward and inwards signs of the aging process. You might notice that your dog sleeps a bit more or that her coat is graying a bit. As well, internally, your dog’s organs are changing with age. There are some general guidelines on lifespans for dogs that are worth keeping in mind as you care for your dog:
- Small breed dogs generally live from 10 to 15 years.
- Medium breed dogs generally live from 10 to 13 years.
- Large breed dogs generally live from 8 to 12 years.
Keep these generalized age ranges in mind as you care for your dog and as you notice any changes in her behavior, coat, habits, or mobility. With age, your dog is more likely to develop heart, kidney or liver disease, arthritis, cancer, and other joint-related conditions. As well, just like humans, aging dogs slowly lose some or all of their vision and hearing. This often occurs very gradually with your dog learning to adjust to these changes. However, if you notice your dog is slow to respond to your voice or is not moving around as easily – contact your veterinarian. Because dogs are very good at hiding their discomfort, it’s super important that you’re in tune with your dog’s mobility and activity levels. Your dog is smart and will hide any joint discomfort from you. Your dog may become reluctant to chase her favorite toy or might want to cut the daily walk a bit short or become reluctant to jump onto the couch – these are all indicators that your dog is suffering from sore joints. Many of the age-related problems your dog might be facing are typically not obvious to you, making it very important that your senior dog has regular veterinary visits. Typically, your vet will complete a number of age-related tests that can be used as benchmarks to monitor your dog’s health. When you visit your vet, bring a list of questions and remember to mention any changes in behavior, activity level, coat/teeth, or mood.
How to Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable and HappyThe number one thing you can do to keep your senior dog comfortable and happy is to schedule regular veterinarian visits. We know that your dog dislikes the vet, but as your dog ages, it’s super important that your vet is looking out for her medical needs. Remember that veterinary medicine has come a long way and many age-related conditions can be treated – and the sooner the condition is identified, the better. There are a few things you can do at home and when out walking to help keep your senior dog feeling her best:
- A comfortable dog bed: your dog needs to feel safe and comfortable when sleeping and resting. There is a wide range of dog beds available that can help ease any discomfort related to arthritis, weight loss, mobility issues, nervousness, and more.
- Quality dog food: talk to your vet about the best food for your senior dog. Depending on your dog’s health, you might need to change her food. Talk to your vet about adding an all-natural dog chew such as Leaps & Bounds to your dog’s diet to help ease mobility issues. As well, remember to change her water daily – pay attention to any changes in water consumption.
- Be ready to adjust your expectations: your dog is going to slow down with age, so you need to ease your expectations of what your dog can and wants to do. If your dog doesn’t want to go for a second walk or is not thrilled about the sub-zero temperatures – be ready to change your plans. It is important that your dog does still get in her walks, but don’t force the issue. As well, consider the effects that the temperature, rambunctious dogs at the dog park, and the walking conditions have on your dog.
- Limit distractions: older dogs can become more nervous and sensitive to things that previously were not a problem. For example, kids, loud noises, hustle and bustle in the home, or a new environment can cause your dog to be fearful. Be sensitive to your dog’s reaction to these kinds of triggers.