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What Age is a Dog Considered a Senior?

Dogs' health and nutritional needs will naturally evolve as they grow older. In this post, our Stockton vets discuss the age at which dogs are considered seniors, and the care they'll need to keep them happy and healthy in their golden years. 

When Dogs Are Considered Seniors

You've probably heard the rule of thumb that one human year is roughly equal to about seven years for a dog, but determining your pooch's age isn't quite that simple. This is because dog breeds age at differing rates. 

Generally, smaller dogs don't age as quickly as larger dogs, so they live longer. Here is a general guide to keep on hand to accurately answer the question, "How old is a senior dog?":

Small breeds are considered senior dogs at around 10-12 years old. 

Medium breeds are considered senior dogs at around 8-9 years old. 

Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs at around 6-7 years old. 

Signs That Your Dog is Getting Older 

You'll likely notice both mental and physical changes in your dog as they age. While some of these changes can be attributed to the natural progression of aging, like grey hair around the muzzle, and don't demand specific veterinary attention, other changes may require monitoring by your vet to ensure your dog stays healthy and comfortable into their old age. 

Some symptoms that your dog is aging include: 

  • Weight gain or loss 
  • Reduction of mental acuity 
  • Arthritis and joint issues 
  • White hairs on the face and muzzle 
  • Loss of muscle tone 
  • Hearing loss 
  • Vision loss 
  • Tooth loss or gum disease
  • Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping
  • Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function 

Caring for Senior Dogs 

There are several measures you can take to help your senior dog maintain their comfort, health, and well-being as they grow older. 

Veterinary Healthcare 

Prioritizing routine veterinary visits is your first step towards caring for your senior pooch. By booking your senior dog's routine wellness exams, you're allowing your vet to check for any emerging health conditions and start treatment as soon as possible. 

Your vet will take the time to evaluate your senior dog's mobility and nutritional needs, and will be able to make recommendations for any dietary or exercise adjustments that can benefit your dog as they enter their golden years. 

Nutrition Requirements

As your dog grows older, their nutritional needs will likely change quite a bit. Senior dogs tend to have lower energy levels than younger dogs and because of this, they are prone to weight gain if they are fed the same amount as they have always eaten. Excess weight gain can also contribute to other issues including joint pain and cardiovascular conditions. Speak to your vet about adjusting your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a food that is specifically formulated for weight loss. 

There is also a range of prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs that are targeted to the various health conditions that senior dogs experience. Speak with your vet to see if they recommend a specific diet or supplement for your pup. 

Besides the physical benefits of a good diet, proper nutrition may be able to help your dog maintain their cognitive function as they age. Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from dementia or Alzheimers-like conditions. Feeding your dog that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, along with providing them with proper exercise, may help them maintain mental alertness.

Exercise - Mental & Physical

As your dog ages, they must keep up with a regular schedule of physical activity. Regular exercise helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and keeps their joints healthy. However, you may have to adjust the forms of exercise you are providing for your pup. For example, if you notice your dog is having difficulty with the long walks they once loved, try taking your dog for more frequent walks that are shorter in duration. 

Alongside routinely scheduled physical exercise sessions, senior dogs must get mental stimulation too. It is never too late to teach your dog a new trick or bring home a new puzzle for them. There are lots of options for problem-solving activities for dogs. One example of this is a puzzle feeder that will make your dog work to get their treat or meal.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is it time for your senior dog's wellness exam? Contact our vets in Stockton today to book an appointment for your pooch.

New Patients Welcome

New Patients Welcome

Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our compassionate vets are experienced in caring for Stockton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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