Dogs grow old; it’s one of those things that makes my heart ache a little bit on those days when my Lulu can’t make her jump into the back of our Prius wagon. She’s 12.5, making her a senior in dog years. Technically, a dog is considered a senior when he reaches the age of seven. However, large breeds tend to age faster than smaller breeds and, so it isn’t the same for every dog. Very large dogs like Great Danes can start showing signs of age by 5, while small breeds like Rat Terriers may not sure signs until they are 10. I am definitely not an expert, but from having dogs over the past 25 years, it is my hope that some tidbits below may help to shine some light on what to watch for.
When a dog reaches the senior age, he slows down, and his body metabolism slows down significantly as well. Therefore, when you are feeding him, remember that he may not require high calories intake as a young dog would require, or even the same amount of protein. If you include high calories in his diet, his body may store the excess calories as fat, and this might shorten his life span because of health complications like diabetes and kidney disease.
I’ve been cooking for my dogs since they were puppies. Nowadays, I lessen the amount of protein I use for my Lulu, who is 12.5 years old. (btw- coho salmon baked is a great source of protein, with lots of omega 3’s for shiny coats. I add some sweet potatoes, carrots, egg shells ground up for calcium and it makes a great meal. Oops- I digress, that is definitely for another post).
A senior dog still requires moderate exercise and movement. In some instances, dogs develop arthritis and other joint conditions as they age. When you are taking your senior dog for an exercise, remember that the joints might hurt because of the pain. Senior dogs still love exercising because it is good for his physical and mental health. But perhaps for those achy joints, keep it down to short distance walks.
Senior dogs lose their hearing ability as they advance in age. In most cases, senior dogs lose their ability make out higher pitches. Sometimes, they can pick up adult voices but miss with children’s voices. If you have children, it is important to let them know about this condition, in order to avoid startling the dog and consequently, prompting him to react in panic.
Most senior dogs suffer from nuclear sclerosis. This condition stems from loss of moisture in the lens. If you look closely, you will notice that the dog’s eyes appear cloudy. However, this should not be a cause for alarm because it does not affect the vision of the dog. However, if the dog develops cataracts, you should take him to the vet before he loses his vision altogether.
Here’s to keeping your aging dog healthy!