Is your dog showing a bit of grey around his whiskers? Or is he a little slower getting up? If your answer is yes, understand it's all part of the aging process. The age when a dog is considered senior can vary depending on the breed. For larger breeds, like Great Danes, that can be as young as six years old. Smaller breeds, like Chihuahuas, aren't considered seniors until 7 to 10 years. In this article, we explore how to tell when your dog becomes a senior citizen and how best to care for your older dog.
Physical Signs of Aging in Dogs
What can you expect with an aging dog? As dogs age, there are physical signs that tell pet parents their pup is in his senior years. Many of these age-related conditions can be helped with veterinary care.
Talk to your vet and ask about senior dog care if you recognize any of these signs of old age in dogs:
- Vision issues — Senior dogs may have cloudy eyes or difficulty seeing. You may notice them bumping into furniture or have difficulty locating familiar objects on the floor. Many vision problems can be helped with treatments, so contact your vet at the first sign.
- Slowing down — Older dogs may have trouble going up and down steps, jumping in and out of the car, or even just getting up from a nap. Senior dog joint supplements may help relieve stiffness caused by normal daily activity.
- Bad breath — As the immune system weakens with your dog's aging, he may become more prone to tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections. Ask your vet about regular dental cleaning and teeth cleaning treats.
- New lumps or bumps — Fatty cell bumps, called lipomas, are common with senior dogs. These masses are just under the skin and can appear anywhere on the body. Lipomas are usually benign, but any new bump, lump, or skin discoloration, should be checked out by your vet.
- Change in weight — Senior dogs may gain weight with less activity. Likewise, a loss in muscle mass from inactivity may cause senior dogs to lose weight. Weight loss can also be a sign of a serious illness, so check with your vet if there are changes in your dog's weight.
- Hearing loss — You may notice your senior dog sleeping more soundly, ignoring your verbal cues, and not looking up or coming over when he's called. With hearing loss, senior dogs may not be disturbed by loud noises and may ignore sounds they used to enjoy, like squeaky toys.
- Urinary disease or senior dog incontinence — Old dog incontinence happens when the muscles that control the bladder are weakened with age. In addition, if your senior dog is on medication for heart disease, he may need to go out more often or he may accidently dribble urine in the house.
Senior dogs may also occasionally experience what pet parents may call old dog diarrhea or senior dog diarrhea. Dogs of any age that experience diarrhea consistently should be checked by a vet. Persistent diarrhea is a sign of an underlying condition, disease, or intestinal parasite, and a vet visit is in order.
For occasional loose stools due to environmental stress or changes in diet, adding fiber to your dog's diet may help. Supplements that are formulated with natural pumpkin and psyllium fiber, like EverRoot digestive supplements, can help maintain a healthy intestinal tract in senior dogs and reduce occasional loose stools due to environmental stress or changes in diet.
If your older dog is losing hair, it may be caused by parasites, infections, or underlying hormonal issues. While it can happen to dogs at any age, senior dogs losing hair on the tail or elsewhere on the body is not uncommon. EverRoot skin and coat supplements contain fish oils and vitamin E that help support skin and coat health for dogs of all ages.
Behavioral and Mental Signs of Aging in Dogs
In addition to physical symptoms, there are behavioral and mental signs that indicate your dog is aging. As they grow older, dogs can lose brain cells, leading to cognitive decline, confusion, and even senior dog dementia. Using supplements for brain health, as well as keeping your dog active and engaged in his favorite activities, can help slow the cognitive decline in senior dogs.
These are the most common senior dog behavior changes. Make an appointment with your vet if you notice:
- Disorientation — Dogs with cognitive decline may appear disoriented and become confused easily.
- Sleep/wake cycle disruptions — Dogs that sleep during the day and then stay awake at night may be experiencing cognitive decline.
- Senior dog anxiety at night — Dogs with sundowners may seem okay during the day but show greater nervousness, confusion, and restlessness at night.
- Increased barking or vocalizations — If your dog is suddenly barking or whining for no apparent reason, it might be due to confusion, hearing loss, or joint pain.
- Compulsive behavior — Repetitive or compulsive movements, like pacing or circling, may be signs of senior dog anxiety as well as cognitive decline.
- Forgetting training — If your older dog forgets commands or training, including house-training, it can be a sign of dog dementia.
- Activity level — A sudden change in your dog's activity levels can be caused by cognitive decline, painful joints, or heart health issues.
- Anxious behaviors — A sudden fear of familiar people, places, or objects can be a sign of dogs with dementia. A senior dog licking his paws may also be a sign of anxious behavior.
To keep your senior dog mentally active and engaged, try hiding treats or dry kibble in food puzzle toys. This will make your dog take the time to learn how to retrieve the food and stimulate his mind.
Maintaining a consistent schedule for feeding, walking, exercise, and sleep can help aging dogs with cognitive challenges, as well as younger dogs with anxious behaviors. If your senior dog's behavior has changed, let visitors know what to expect.
How to Help Your Aging Dog
As dogs age, their nutritional needs change. Just like puppies need specialized food until they are about one year old, dogs seven years and older may need food formulated specifically for senior dogs, or for their unique conditions, such cognitive health, weight management and joint health.
If your dog shows signs of dog dementia, you may want to consider switching to a food rich in nutrients that support brain health in older dogs.
Keeping your dog at an ideal weight can help with mobility, heart, and immune issues. Limit the treats and provide moderate exercise to avoid obesity. If your dog is overweight, your vet may recommend changing your dog's food to a weight management formula.
Moderate exercise — gentle walks around the neighborhood — will maintain muscle strength in senior dogs. Consider low-impact hydrotherapy with a licensed pet rehabilitation therapist to keep muscles strong. If your dog is slowing down and showing signs of joint pain, talk to your vet about food specially formulated to support joint health.
Stay up-to-date with vaccinations and see your vet with regular checkups to maintain your senior dog's health and well-being.
Signs Your Senior Dog Is Healthy
It's important to know what's normal for your dog. Establishing a baseline of healthy activity and behavior makes it easier to discern any changes as your dog grows older.
A good checklist for a healthy senior dog should include:
- Energy — Can your dog maintain the same level of energy? Is he happy with long walks and playtime?
- Fresh breath — If his breath is fresh, it likely means your dog has no oral health issues.
- Shiny coat and healthy skin — Healthy skin and coat is a top sign that your dog is absorbing the necessary nutrients for a healthy dog.
- Healthy weight — Obesity is hard on your dog's joint and heart health. Keep your dog at a steady weight.
- Regular bowel movements — This is a sign your dog does not have diarrhea or constipation. His urine should be clear and yellow.
- Bright, shiny eyes — This indicates strong eye health.
- No lumps or bumps — Keep an eye on your dog's skin and make sure there are no unusual growths or discolorations.
- Regular vet visits — Stay up-to-date on teeth cleaning to maintain oral health and your dog's vaccinations to prevent parasitic infections that lead to serious health issues.
How Senior Dog Chews and Supplements for Dogs Work
Senior dog supplements may be part of an overall wellness plan that includes medications for specific conditions, training, moderate exercise, and supportive care to help dogs as they get older. Natural supplements for dogs are a particularly wholesome way to provide additional support for your aging dog.
If your senior dog shows signs of cognitive decline, here's how you can help:
- Cognitive supplements for senior dogs — Consider EverRoot brain health supplements that support senior dog cognitive health with ingredients like coconut oil, tart cherries, and turmeric.
- Medications — Talk to your vet about prescriptions approved for treating dogs with cognitive decline.
- Be patient — There may be accidents in the house if your dog is confused or forgets his house-training.
- Keep things the same — Stick to a routine and maintain the layout of your household furniture to avoid your dog feeling confused or anxious.
For dogs with joint stiffness from normal activity, try these suggestions:
- Consider hip and joint supplements for senior dogs — Ask your vet about the best supplements for senior dogs. Choose supplements that are certified by the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) for quality with healthful ingredients such as green-lipped mussels, fish oil, and vitamin E that support joint health like EverRoot hip & joint supplements for dogs.
- Orthopedic beds, ramps, and steps — Orthopedic beds can help dogs feel comfortable sleeping, while carpeted ramps or steps can help your dog get up and down with less pain.
- Hip braces or dog lift harnesses — Hip braces and lift harnesses can support and provide stability for your dog, minimizing pressure on joints.
- Elevated food bowls — Reduce strain on your dog's back, neck, and front limbs with elevated food bowls.
Dogs of all ages exhibiting nervousness, hyperactivity, discontentment, or responding to environmentally induced stress may benefit from these tips:
- Don't encourage or motivate excitement — Keep your voice at a calm and even level and only provide treats when your dog is relaxed.
- Calming supplements — Ask your vet about supplements with ingredients that calm behaviors, like the chamomile and L-theanine in EverRoot calming supplements.
- Be calm yourself — Your dog will take cues from your energy, so stay calm when correcting him during disruptive, overactive situations.
If your dog has been diagnosed with a heart condition, consider:
- Heart health supplements — Talk to your vet about natural heart supplements for dogs that contain taurine, green-lipped mussels, vitamins, and minerals to support your dog's heart health. You'll find those ingredients in EverRoot heart health supplements.
- Dental hygiene — Be consistent with regular dental cleanings at your vet. Give your dog teeth-cleaning treats and chews to maintain oral health.
- Parasites — Stay current on heartworm and other parasitic preventions to prevent heart disease.
Here are a few suggestions for dogs with compromised immune systems:
- Immune-supporting supplements — Ask your vet about immune system supplements for dogs — look for ingredients, like blue-green spirulina, that may improve immune function. You'll find spirulina in EverRoot immune support supplements.
- Clean bowls — Keep food and water bowls clean to minimize germs, and always have fresh water available.
- Reduce stress — Help support your dog's immune system by reducing stress and keeping them calm.
With a little proactive care, the proper nutrition, extra love, and a bit of patience, you and your senior dog can enjoy his golden years.
Learn more about EverRoot supplements for dogs.