Senior Dog Care

Taking care of your senior (7+) dog is very important in helping to extend years together. It is not only important to have years together but to make those years healthy and happy. By working closely with a veterinarian and taking extra care you can make a difference in your dog’s life.

 

Facts About Senior Dogs

  • As many as 23% of senior dogs appear healthy and still have an underlying disease.
  • Small breed dogs tend to have longer life expectancies than medium to large breed dogs.
  • Genetics, nutrition, and environment all contribute to how dogs handle aging.
  • As dogs age, much like people, their metabolism and activity levels slow down.
  • It is highly recommended that senior dogs be seen by a veterinarian at least every 6 months. In a senior dog’s life, 6 months can represent 4 to 6 years in the life of humans.

 

The most common disease in senior dogs
  • Cancer
  • Kidney Disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Dental Disease
  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

 

How to help your dog live a longer, healthier life
    1. Exams Every 6 Months – Yearly exams are sufficient for younger, healthier dogs. But in senior dogs, health status can change in as little as 6 months. Remember those 6 months in a senior dog’s life are equivalent to 4-6 years in the life of a human.
    2. Diagnostic Exams
      • Complete Blood Count (CBC) – A simple blood test that evaluates the number of blood cells circulating through the body. It looks at white blood cells (help fight off infection and/or inflammation), red blood cells (which help carry oxygen to tissues), and platelets (which are important in the formation of blood clots).
      • Chemistry Panel – Simple blood tests that evaluates the function of many important organ systems. Such as: Liver, Kidney and Pancreas. It also evaluates the body’s electrolytes as well as enzymes that are key in muscle and bone health.
      • Thyroid Function – This blood test is very useful in evaluating the function of the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) is common in dogs. Whereas for cats hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) is more common.
      • Urinalysis – Assessing the urine helps better evaluate the urinary system.
    3. Parasite Testing
      • Fecal – Evaluating a pet’s stool sample allows your veterinarian to look for intestinal parasites such as: roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidian, girardia, and others.
      • Blood – Blood is used to test for the presence of heartworm disease. Blood can also be evaluated for blood-borne parasites.

Diagnostic tests are key in early detection of many life-threatening diseases.

    1. Proper Nutrition
      • As your dog ages medications need to be made to their diet.
      • A diet needs to be highly digestible, palatable, and needs to have a proper balance of calories and nutrients.
      • It may be necessary to place your senior dog on a therapeutic diet. Therapeutic diets are formulated to help aid in the treatment of many diseases.

  1. Environment Changes – You may need to make some changes around the house to help out your senior dog, such as making sure the bedding is comfortable and supportive of joints, may need to place ramps around steps to allow for easier access and making special exercise games.

BE ALERT – signs that may help you observe changes in your senior dog.

Checklist for senior dogs
  • Change in water consumption
  • Lethargic/Depressed
  • Change in urination habits
  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Lumps/bumps
  • Breathing heavy or fast while resting
  • Any stiffness, lameness, or trouble with walking/jumping
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in attitude
  • Constipation
  • Noticeable change in vision
  • Diarrhea
  • Bad breath or drooling
  • Excessive panting
  • Change in grooming habits

If you notice any of these changes in your dog call your veterinarian to schedule an exam. Early detection of potential health problems can help “slow the clock” for your senior dog.