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


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, 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 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 dogs 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.

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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