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Elder Pet Care

As your dog ages, there are a number of things to keep in mind when it comes to the health and well-being of a senior pooch. Here, our Stockton veterinarians explain geriatric vet care for pets and what you can do to help your canine companion stay healthy and happy throughout their golden years.

What is senior dog care?

Senior pet care refers to the specialized attention and support needed by older dogs as they age. This may include regular veterinary check-ups and dietary adjustments to ensure their comfort and well-being. 

Senior Dogs & Aging

You may be familiar with the popular idea that 1 human year is the equivalent to about 7 dog years as a way to gauge your pup's life stages and expected lifespan. However, things are a little more complicated than that. Other factors, such as breed and size, for example, affect the rate at which your dog ages. 

Smaller breeds of dog tend to age more slowly than larger breeds. Speaking generally though, there are a few helpful guidelines to think about when determining the age at which your dog is considered to be a senior: around 10-12 years for small breeds;  about 8-9 years old for medium breeds; and about 6-7 years old for large and giant breeds.

Veterinary Care For Senior Dogs

It's likely that you will start to notice some differences in your pet as they grow older. Physical, mental and behavioral changes are all par for the course when it comes to your dog growing older. Some of the most common signs of aging in dogs don't need veterinary attention - such as greying of their muzzle - but pet parents should keep a lookout for signs that a visit to their vet's office may be needed. Some of these include:

  • Weight fluctuation (gain or loss)
  • Poor or worsening hearing/vision
  • Sleep abnormalities (sleeping too much/not enough)
  • Mental dullness
  • Dental disease and tooth loss
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Arthritis and joint issues
  • Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function

If you notice these signs in your older pooch, book a wellness check with your vet. By taking your senior dog for routine wellness exams, you're giving your veterinarian the chance to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions and begin treatment as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will also assess your senior dog's nutrition and mobility and make recommendations for diet or exercise adjustments that may benefit your dog.

As dogs get older, it’s a good idea to see your veterinarian on a regular basis for checkups. Besides an annual or biannual exam, it is suggested that pet parents get yearly blood work done for their senior dogs. It's recommended that you do blood work to check your senior dog's white and red blood cells and their kidney and liver function to make sure that they're healthy. This tailored attention can help detect potential issues early, when they are more easily treatable.

Caring For Your Senior Dog

Below, we'll give you some tips on caring for your dog's nutritional, physical, and mental needs.


It's pretty likely that your dog's nutritional needs will change as they grow older. Most senior dogs start to slow down and be less physically active over time, making them more prone to gaining weight. Excess weight can cause other health issues in your dog too such as cardiovascular conditions and sore joints. 

Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if your dog's diet needs to be adjusted, which could mean watching 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.

Aside from the physical benefits of a healthy diet, proper nutrition may also help your dog maintain cognitive function as they age. Dogs, like humans, can develop dementia or Alzheimer's-like conditions; however, feeding your dog an omega-3 fatty acid-rich diet and getting them enough exercise may help them maintain mental alertness.


As with humans, keeping the body and mind active is important to better health as your dog ages. Maintaining a regular schedule of physical activity can help your canine companion keep their weight within a healthy range and exercise their joints.

When it comes to exercise, you must consider your dog's comfort and ability. If you notice that your dog is struggling with the long walks or runs in the park that they used to enjoy, try taking them on shorter, more frequent walks if possible. Slowing down or appearing hesitant to go for walks can also be indicators of health problems like arthritis or hip dysplasia. So, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure that your pet receives the treatment they require.


Along with regular physical exercise, senior dogs require mental stimulation. It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks or introduce them to a puzzle game or toy with hidden kibbles or treats. There are numerous options for your dog at pet supply stores and online.

Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable

Aside from ensuring they receive adequate veterinary care, nutrition, and physical and mental exercise, there are a few things you can do to help your aging four-legged friend live out their golden years in comfort:

  • Orthopedic dog bed, heated dog bed (or heating pad/mat set to low heat under a blanket in their sleeping area) for dogs with joint pain or stiffness.
  • More carpeting around a home with tile, laminate or wood floors can reduce slipping or tripping hazards for your older dog (some dogs also do well with dog socks that have non-slip soles).
  • Pet gates (or baby gates) can be placed at the top or bottom or stairs to prevent tripping or falling hazards.
  • Improve accessibility with dog ramps to help your pet go up and down the stairs, on furniture, or into cars; elevating their food and water bowls can also help with neck and back pain. 
  • If your dog has vision issues, seeing at night will be harder for them; some nightlights around the home will help them navigate.

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 Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital today to book an appointment for your pup.

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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