September, October, and November are big birthday months at our house. Birthdays mean celebrations. Remembering cherished moments and looking forward to the possibilities of the next year. Birthdays also mean getting older, becoming “seniors”.
Annie Girl walks a little slower and the stairs are a bit more challenging. There is more grey on her face with each passing year. You won’t hear her complain though. And, to be honest, I don’t mind that she doesn’t jump out of bed at 6 every morning ready to eat, go outside, and play. I enjoy the extra snuggle time with her. Annie Girl will be 13 in October. She is a senior.
How do you know when your dog is a “senior”? It varies among breeds with large breeds tending to age earlier than small breeds. For most dogs, the senior title is earned between the ages of six and eight. Some signs of aging are graying around the muzzle, hearing loss, and sleeping more. These changes may occur so slowly that you won’t notice until someone else points it out or you pull out a picture to post for “Throw Back Thursday”.
So what can you do to help your senior dog age gracefully and comfortably? Here are a few tips.
- Nutrition – Aging dogs undergo metabolic and body composition changes. Some dogs may tend to become obese while others may become thin. Since dogs experience age-related changes at different times and in different ways, more frequent trips to your vet may be needed to ensure your dog is eating the appropriate food.
- Digestive System – More frequent feedings are easier on an older dog’s digestive system.
- Body Temperature – Regulating body temperature is more difficult for older dogs. They are extra sensitive to heat, humidity, and cold. Keep them warm and dry.
- Arthritis – Older dogs are prone to joint pain and arthritis. To ease the pain, consider ramps and an orthopedic bed. Your vet may also recommend supplements or pain medications.
- Hearing/Vision Loss – If your dog shows signs of hearing/vision loss, make sure they see/hear you before you touch them. Sudden movements may startle them and cause them to react in fear. Keep floors clear of clutter and remove obstacles in pathways.
As mentioned above, some symptoms may be subtle. You may notice other changes immediately. Call your vet right away if you notice any sudden or significant behavior change. Be aware of any changes in weight, appetite, urination or water intake.
Age is not an excuse to stop exercising. Exercise continues to play a vital part in the health of senior dogs. However, you will need to monitor and adjust the fitness routine as he or she ages. You may need to slow the pace, take more frequent breaks, and add more lower impact and stretching exercises. Warm-up and cool-downs become more important. Consult your vet to make sure there are no specific restrictions or special considerations as a result of medical conditions or medications.
Good health habits throughout life will help your dog not simply live longer but live happier.