Dog lifespans vary by breed, so your dog can be “older” than you realize. If your dog is a giant breed, like a Great Dane, then 6 or 7 years is considered old. A medium to large Golden Retriever can live a few years longer, but by 8 to 10 is definitely a senior.
Small breeds such as Jack Russell terriers live the longest but will be getting a grey muzzle by 10 or 11 years old.
Senior dogs are very different than puppies and dogs in their prime. They exhibit many of the same physical and even emotional issues and require the same special care as our senior family members.
Health concerns are the primary worries you will encounter. Older dogs do get arthritis. They do not move as fast and have difficulty with stairs. Exercise is critical to keep their joints moving.
Of course they cannot be as active as when they were younger, but a daily short walk will help their joints and mental well-being. You can also add supplements to their food.
There are many available made specifically for dogs. Some supplements that veterinarians recommend include omega-3 fatty acids, MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
You should also be attentive to your dog’s teeth. Sometimes a dog will not eat and it is due to missing or decayed teeth.
You should have your veterinarian check your dog to make sure that there are no other health issues, but a dental problem can be serious. The veterinarian can take care of the dental surgery that needs to be done. You can then provide softer food that will be easier for the senior dog to eat.
Bladder control problems can occur. If you dog starts losing bladder control you should first check with your veterinarian.
Older dogs can have enteritis, diabeties, kidney infection or be stressed. All of these can cause loss of bladder control. If there is no medical reason, it helps to take the dog outside more often in the daytime and limit access to the water after a certain hour in the evening.
Older dogs that are in pain, as from arthritis, may become anxious and clingy. You should check with your veterinarian to see if pain medication is needed. Above all, be patient; your dog wants you near when he or she is distressed, and feels safe with you and comforted by your presence.
It is hard to see your dog get old and know that they are coming to the end of their life. Being aware of what emotional and physical changes your pet is experiencing with help you to help your dog live out his last days in the best way you can provide.