Life with Senior Dogs: Highs, Lows, and the In-between

If we could have our dogs live forever, especially senior dogs, we would. But as dog parents, we know that our buddies will eventually cross the rainbow bridge. So, we make the time we have with them worthwhile.

Just like humans, dogs age, but they age much faster than us. That’s where awareness of dog wellness is essential. They will soon start requiring different types of treatments and even lifestyle changes. You should be there with them when that happens.

Veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, head of the Animal Behavior department at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, says that old age isn’t a disease, but a stage of life for pets and owners to navigate.

If your dog is 6-7 years of age, they’re generally considered a senior pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). In human years, this is the equivalent of the mid-40s for small to medium breeds and early 50s for large breeds.

Golden Retriever Dog Remembrance

It’s important for you as a dog parent to know that once your dog enters this stage in their life, they’ll be different and you’ll have to be aware of how to adapt to it.

Senior dogs have an increased risk for cancer as they age, as well as the start of complications in important organs like the heart and kidneys. If a senior dog has increased panting, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, or a change in appetite, thirst, or the frequency of urination, it should be seen by a veterinarian, as these can be symptoms of heart and kidney problems.

You might also notice behavior changes such as confusion, increased vocalization, more anxiety, changes in sleep cycles, and house soiling.

senior dog on lap of owner

Here are several ways how to keep them happy and safe:

Frequent visits to the vet

Just like when your dogs were puppies, their bodies are changing and need proper care and monitoring. Having your vet as a trusted source of information is vital at this point in your dog’s life. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that you take your senior dogs to the vet every 6 months. Early detection of any possible complications or diseases is crucial.

Switch to an age-appropriate diet

Their bodies don’t break down and process food the same way anymore. Older dogs are at higher risk of developing obesity since they no longer have the same levels of energy as before. They’re also going to be needing vitamins and supplements to keep their bodies in check.

We recommend:

  • Food high in omega-3s, such as fish and egg yolks
  • Homemade bone broth or store-bought bone broth — it’s great for bone and joint support
  • Digestive enzymes and probiotics can help dogs digest and absorb nutrients better
  • Pumpkin can be used to increase fiber and help with bowel issues — both constipation and diarrhea
  • Steamed or gently cooked dark greens, such as kale, broccoli, spinach, or dandelion — used as food toppers are great blood tonics since many senior dogs are prone to anemia. They also are a natural source of vitamins.

It’s also best to consult your vet for any special diets your dog might need to go on.

Regular exercise

The overall wellness of your senior dog can be increased by keeping them active is important, just make sure that you don’t overdo it. Their bodies are frailer and might not want to move as much, which might need you to give them a slight nudge to exercise.

doggy friendly date walk someplace special

Dr. Morgan, a veterinarian, says, “Muscles support joints, without good muscle tone, mobility decreases drastically. This is why pet physical therapy has become so commonly used. Joints in motion stay limber; joints not in motion get stiff.”

Going out at least once a day for a leisurely stroll will be more than enough to help keep your senior dog healthy. If walks really aren’t their thing, you can try new mental stimulation toys as well.

Regular grooming and proper hygiene

As your dog ages, its coat and skin can become dull-looking and brittle. Senior dogs can also suffer from dry, flaky, and irritated skin that can become even worse if not cared for properly. The same goes for their teeth and gums, they become more sensitive and prone to infection as they age.

dog grooming combing

Make brushing their teeth every day a part of your routine, as well as a trip to the dog groomers every 3-4 weeks to keep their skin/fur in tip-top shape.

Give them special accommodation

As we’ve mentioned, your senior dog’s body isn’t the same as it is before. Jumping on the sofa or climbing into their beds might not be the easiest thing anymore. Senior dogs often develop arthritis or other bone and joint problems that affect their mobility.

Giving them the needed supplements to cater to their aching joints, as well as getting them special beds that’ll help alleviate the pain will do wonders.

Make more memories with them

Time isn’t something any of us can control, but we can, however, decide what we do with it. It’s painful to see your senior dog age and not be who they used to be, but that’s even more reason to spend more time with them.

dog kiss and hug by woman

Some senior dogs start to lose their hearing or vision and tend to get anxious. They’ll need to be closer to you. Even though your dog might not be able to see or hear you, they still need your presence and attention in order to stay emotionally and mentally healthy.

Having our dog’s age isn’t the easiest thing, but the best way to combat the negative feelings is by living in the moment and cherishing all the memories and every day spent with your buddy.

At the end of the day, you can only do so much to keep your senior dog happy and healthy for the remainder of their lives. Just be patient and be there for them every step of the way.

After all, their world revolves around you and they’ve dedicated their lives to being your companion, so it’s only fitting to give back some of that extra love and care.

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