How Aging Affects Your Dog
Dogs are members of your family — the loyalist of friends and always there for you. As is the case with humans, it can be hard to see them grow older.
Nevertheless, knowing the most common signs of aging in dogs can better help you assist them as they grow into their older years.
Metabolic and appetite changes
Older dogs don’t need as many calories as young pups. This is why it’s common for vets to recommend reducing older dogs’ food intake; otherwise, obesity may become a problem. Metabolic changes also prompt varied nutritional needs. For example, older dogs require more fat and less fiber. Some dog owners give their dogs supplements as well.
Lower body physical changes
Big breeds tend to form calluses on their elbows as they age. This is often a result of reduced activity and laying down more. For the same reason, it’s not unusual for older dogs’ nails to grow longer and need more frequent trimming; the nails simply aren’t getting ground down as regularly. Thickened foot pads are another common sign of aging.
Just like humans, dogs can struggle with arthritis, which causes stiffness and pain in the joints. For some dogs, it may be difficult to jump (onto the couch or into the car, for example), so pain relievers may be prescribed by your vet.
Other common symptoms
Here are other symptoms you may see in aging dogs:
- Graying or whitening hair (commonly around the muzzle, eyes, and chest)
- Dental disease
More serious health concerns
Dogs tend to struggle with specific health complications and diseases as they age. These include:
- Heart disease
- Decreased kidney and liver function
- Decreased lung capacity
- Compromised immune systems
- Prostate enlargement (male dogs)
- Hormonal issues
At What Age Is My Dog Considered a Senior?
This depends mostly on your dog’s breed. Great Danes, for example, are considered elderly when they are just six or seven. Conversely, poodles may live until they are 20 or older.
Generally speaking, however, you should treat and care for your dog more as a senior when they reach the age of seven. This is usually considered middle or senior age, and it’s a good time to take your dog to the vet for a consultation on optimal senior dog healthcare. Your vet may recommend a new dog food, a different exercise regimen, or other suggestions for optimal health in your dog’s golden years.
It’s important to remember that all dogs are different and will show signs of aging at different rates. The best thing you can do for your dog at any age is to spend time with them, get them exercise, feed them right, and take them in for regular vet check-ups at least once a year.