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Dog Senior Care - How to Best Care For Your Aging Dog

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At Berry Farms and Concord Road Animal Hospitals, we love providing senior dogs with the care and support they need to age gracefully and comfortably. We understand that the experience of caring for older dogs can be a tremendously rewarding one that enhances and enriches the lives of dogs themselves as well as their human caretakers. We truly are dog people at heart. We love to lend insight and guidance in caring for older dogs.

What's the most important thing to know about caring for a senior dog?

It's going to vary from patient to patient, but it's vital that over the time that you've had your pet, that you know what normal is for them because, as they age, you may start to see subtle changes that could potentially indicate a long-term problem.

Dr. Mitch McKee
Cupola Animal Hospitals - Berry Farms Animal Hospital

What's the life expectancy of a dog?

Life expectancy is going to vary from breed to breed. Our bigger dogs, say like our great Danes and our Mastiffs, don't live quite as long as some of our other breeds do. Our smaller breeds seem to have a little bit longer lifespan, and our mid-sized breeds, have a little bit longer than our smaller breeds. It's also going to depend on how well you're taking care of the senior dog.

How does getting older impact the health of my dog?

Getting older can impact your dog's health in many different ways, and quality of life is what you're most concerned about. So it's imperative that as your dog ages, that we continue to monitor how well they're eating, drinking, and performing those daily tasks that were so easy for the dog as they were growing up.

How can wellness care extend the life and vitality of my dog?

Wellness care is strategic in the early detection of disease, early detection of bone and joint-related or some type of metabolic process. As early as we can identify a problem, we have a lot more choices in slowing down the progression of it, potentially getting a cure, or managing it from the very beginning. That gives us the very best advantage to get the most satisfactory outcome.

What are the most common problems in senior dogs?

Many of our senior pets are dealing with vision problems, whether it's cataract-related or just old dog vision changes. Often, our older pets don't hear very well. Mobility is always a limiting factor, it seems. They're having trouble sometimes getting up and down, getting in and out of vehicles, and steps are often difficult for them. Then we can progress even to more advanced issues such as canine cognitive disease, which is more of a dementia-type problem. These dogs are often lost in corners, staring at walls, or forgetting their night and day schedules and getting their night and days mixed up. There are many things to consider as our dog's age.

Does my dog still need regular wellness exams as they get older?

Your dogs that are getting older need at least twice-yearly exams. We want to look for any changes in overall life quality. We also want to evaluate any lab work that we can to see if there's progression or regression in things that we've been tracking or whether we've been able to make a difference in some of those overall conditions that we're dealing with. So getting more frequent exams, depending upon your dog's condition, will be very important through the aging process.

What will my vet be looking for when examining my senior dog?

We'll be looking for a range of motion. How far can we move those joints? Are they normal? Are they restricted in some way? How well are we tracking in terms of our vision, and what is our dental health like? We see a lot of pets, regardless of age, that have dental disease. We know that dogs with very poor dental care, over time, their teeth wear down, and their teeth become very sensitive. It can be very uncomfortable for them to eat, and they can only tolerate certain foods. So I would like to make sure that we have good oral care, that we're doing everything we can to benefit in terms of keeping our mobility as best as possible. We'll be looking for any potential growths on the skin or any changes related to growth size that we may have been monitoring over a series of time.

Making Good Food Choices For Senior Dogs

Canine nutrition is extremely important throughout the entirety of a dog's life. However, making sound senior dog food choices is an especially important facet of senior dog care. Because of decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism, aging dogs may need 20% fewer total calories than middle-aged adult dogs. However, some older dogs may not be able to assimilate proteins as well and may require added protein or changes in the type of protein they receive. Generally, aging dogs tend to gain weight, and as they do, they become at risk for possible health complications that did not plague them in adolescence. For example, it may take obese dogs longer for their blood glucose concentrations to return to normal. This disrupted carbohydrate metabolism can lead to diabetes.

This is why it is important to consult your veterinarian about the best senior dog food option for your canine companion. Specially formulated senior dog food is easier to digest and might also address liver, kidney, or urinary issues as well as the general nutritional needs specific to senior dogs.

Dental Care For Senior Dogs

Dental disease is especially common in senior dogs because it progresses gradually and can easily go unnoticed. Senior dogs simply adapt to living with discomfort. However, adapting to discomfort doesn't mean that they are not in pain. Just as in humans, dental issues can be very painful for dogs. Unfortunately for your dog, they are not able to express themselves to you in a way that will help you understand.

It is our goal to diagnose and treat all dental diseases in senior pets to allow them to live comfortably in their senior years. Some senior pets may have other illnesses that can affect the recommended course of treatment. Therefore, we will work together with you to determine the safest and best outcome for your dog.

How Much Exercise Should A Senior Dog Get?

Although your senior dog cannot jump as high or run as fast as he or she could in his or her prime, exercise is still an essential component of any senior dog care regimen. Dogs tend to age better both physically and mentally when daily exercise, such as a short walk, is a part of their routine. However, an important rule of thumb is to keep their exercise both regular and moderate. Keep up with daily or every other day walks and limit the duration according to the dog's level of fitness and fatigue. Just as in humans, exercise can also:

  • Help maintain a healthy body weight
  • Slow the progression of old-age arthritis
  • Stimulate cognitive capacity
  • Heighten motor skills and coordination faculties

Of course, the physical condition of your senior dog will ultimately determine exercise duration and frequency, and we recommend consulting your veterinarian about the most appropriate and effective exercise routine for your canine companion.

Schedule A Wellness Checkup For Your Senior Dog Today!

As a dedicated, passionate, and enthusiastic team of dog people, we love seeing wagging tails, feeling cold noses, and hearing about how our senior dog services have bettered the lives of our elderly canine patients. Our canine veterinary staff loves caring for older dogs and is committed to the health, wellness, and happiness of your elderly canine companion. We have been here for many aging dogs and their owners over the years, and we will be here for you and yours each and every step of the way.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 224-7776, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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