On average, dogs live for around 12 years, but many live much longer as individual breeds age at different rates. Middle age for most dogs is generally considered at around seven years of age, but each breed can differ with larger dogs such as Great Danes and Mastiffs known to age faster.
Just like us, when dogs age they can suffer from senior moments and age-related problems, such as arthritis and reduced cognitive function. Senior pets should be monitored regularly to help maintain their health and wellbeing as they age.
Arthritis is a common complaint from pet owners as their dog ages. Joint function can deteriorate with age which can have a huge impact on your dog’s quality of life. Changes in a dog’s behaviour may also be attributed to reduced cognitive function. As they get older, dogs can have senile moments and owners might notice they fail to react to every day commands, as they previously did.
As dogs age, their behaviour may change and as a pet owner, it’s important to pick up on these changes quickly to identify the best treatment.
Common signs to look out for, which could identify if your senior dog needs extra support could include:
- Changes in their eating habits
- Stiffness when getting up or when lying down
- Slowing down on walks
- Change in temperament/personality
- A change in their toilet habits/ soiling in the house
- More aggressive or grumpy
- Walking into doors or furniture
- Failure to recognise family members
- Whining/barking excessively for no reason
Common health problems for senior dogs
Joints & mobility
As your dog ages, you may notice a reduction in mobility. Simple tasks such as going up the stairs or getting into the car might be a struggle. To help keep your pet mobile, you could use a ramp to help get them into the car and prevent dogs from jumping up. Further support, such as a natural dog joint supplement could help aid and soothe stiff joints.
As with humans, deteriorating eyesight is part of the normal aging process and can occur over time in some dogs. Experts advise it is best to catch it when the eyes are just beginning to fail so that you can teach your dog to rely on their other senses.
Brain and mental function
Like us, as pet’s age they can lose cognitive function, which can result in cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). If your dog starts having accidents around the house or getting disorientated, it could be a sign that they have cognitive dysfunction. Keeping an eye on their behaviour is integral to spotting these signs early.
As dogs age they may struggle more with their mobility, which may mean less walks and general movement. This could lead to weight gain. It’s important to ensure your dog gets the right amount of nutrients from their diet to prevent extra weight gain, as well as exercise.
This is most common in dogs aged 8 or 9 years old and can be hereditary and is more common in female dogs. There are some breeds that can be especially prone to diabetes, which include, Pugs, Toy Poodles and Miniature Schnauzers.
Keeping your senior dog healthy
Regular vet visits
Regular check up with the vet are important for older dogs. It will ensure your vet can keep an eye out for any new health problems and keep up-to-date with key vaccinations.
Although their exercise routine should be adjusted slightly as dogs get older. Little and often is recommended, but it is still important to walk senior dogs to keep them mobile and prevent any weight gain that could put pressure on their joints.
As your dog ages their diet may change to ensure they are getting the right nutrients. As older pets tend to move less, obesity is more prevalent Pet food produced speciifcally for senior pets tends to have fewer calories, reduced fat and more fibre.
Regular grooming is important for your senior pet to help keep their skin and coat in good condition. As your pet ages joint stiffness may prevent them from being able to groom themselves.
Make sure your dog has comfy warm bedding away from any drafts. They should have close access to the garden as their toilet habits may change with age and they might have to go more often. For smaller dogs make sure they have extra bedding during winter months to keep them warm and extra bedding can be used as padding for their joints.
Clip their nails
As your elderly dog can become less active, their nails can get long and could cause in growing nails. If you don’t feel con dent trimming your dog’s nails, consult your vet for help and advice.
Strong research demonstrates that Omega-3 from fish oil supports cognitive function. Oral Omega 3 especially from DHA plays an indispensable role in naturally supporting neuronal membranes in the aged brains.
Retrain your dog
This can be done using the same techniques as with a puppy. For problematic behaviour issues, consult your vet first.
Treat release toys can be beneficial for mental stimulation and to keep your dog active. Hiding your pet’s treats in toys and throughout the house will help to keep their mind stimulated and active. Think of innovative ways to enrich your pet’s indoor environment.
Maintain oral health
Regardless of age, it’s important to keep up with brushing your pet’s teeth to remove any plaque or bacteria build up. As your dog ages, their routine and diet may change so it’s key to keep this particular routine up.