Large dogs age faster than small dogs. Some giant breeds are seniors as early as age five or six. Medium and large breeds may start showing some signs of aging around seven or eight, while many small breeds show few signs of aging before age ten.
Even if your senior dog looks and seems to be healthy, regular vet check-ups are extremely important to manage changes associated with aging.
The first obvious signs of old age in a dog are often a graying muzzle and a lower energy level. Older dogs spend less time playing, more time napping and they sleep more soundly. Knowing how the aging process can affect a dog, recognizing the signs of pain and aging, and making a few adjustments can give an elderly dog a healthier, happier life and extra quality time.
Give your senior dog lots of love and attention and do all you can to keep him comfortable, active and involved in family life.
Simple things you can do to help make aging easier.
Keep bowls of fresh, clean water on every level of your home so your senior dog doesn't have to go up and down stairs so often.
Cover slippery tile and wood floors with rubber backed rugs or mats to prevent slipping and sliding and possible injury.
A pet ramp or a set of doggie steps makes getting up on the couch or in and out of the car easier and prevents stress on joints.
Exercise will also help with weight control. Modify the amount a nd intensity according to your dogs strength and endurance.
To ease neck strain when walking on a leash, use a harness instead of fastening a lead to the dog's collar.
Adding supplements with glucosamine,chondroitin and marine concentrate for joint health can ease arthritis pain by helping to maintain the healthy cartilage that cushions bones.
Use elevated feeders to make eating and drinking more comfortable for large dogs. Raised bowls reduce neck and back strain and aid digestion.
Extra supervision will be needed around small children, encouraging them to be kind and gentle. Older dogs may not tolerate stressful situations, screaming and being hurt or teased.
Incontinence, even in dogs who were perfectly house-trained, is one of the most frustrating age related problems to deal with.
Never scold or punish a dog for accidents due to incontinence. The dog is probably just as upset as you are by loss of control. Help prevent accidents by taking your senior dog outside more often. Take them out as soon as they wake up in the morning, before bedtime, after eating and after napping... even waking them periodically to go outside every few hours. It may require a little extra time, patience, and attention from you, but having a healthy, happy companion for as long as possible is priceless.