At what age are dogs considered to be “aging” or “senior?” The answer depends on the dog’s breed.
While a large breed dog like a Saint Bernard is already considered to be in its senior year at 8 years, a small breed dog like a Shih Tzu is considered to be only in its middle year at this age.
Generally, the life expectancy of large breed dogs is shorter compared to small breeds.
However different their life spans are, it is still relatively shorter compared to our human years. Time flies when it comes to our best buddies.
Unfortunately, not all dog owners are patient or willing enough to take care of their aging dogs, which is why they are often left in shelters to live out the rest of their lives.
This is sad, considering they probably don’t understand why all of a sudden they are being abandoned by people whom they trust and love unconditionally.
Dogs become more vulnerable physically, mentally, and emotionally as they grow old. They will have special needs in order for them to enjoy their remaining years comfortably and happily.
They will need more attention and they will have to adjust to certain changes. Here are some guidelines on how to take care of aging dogs:
Do schedule a regular check-up with your dog’s trusted vet
Senior dogs are prone to developing degenerative diseases as they age due to many diff factors such as lifestyle, activity, and genes. They need to be checked regularly by their vet to catch any onset of illness or disease at an early stage, which will increase their chances of healing and survival.
Provide a healthy diet plan for your dog
Your dog’s choice of diet plays a huge part in your dog’s health. Ask your vet for assistance in creating the best diet plan appropriate for your dog that will address his health issues and prevent the development of other diseases that its breed could be prone to.
Pay attention to your dog’s dental health
Sadly, dental health is often downplayed by many dog owners, not knowing that poor dental health could cause bacteria to enter their dog’s bloodstream. Tooth and gum infections can also lead to loss of appetite, weight loss, and eventually poor nutrition. This could all lead to a lowered immune system, weakening your dog’s ability to fight off infections and illnesses.
Don’t force your dog to maintain the same level of exercise that he is used to
As dogs begin to age, their joints and muscles also deteriorate, making it harder for them to reach the same distance they used to. They may get tired more easily and be reluctant to go out. Therefore, they may need only light and simple exercises and a lower calorie diet to prevent them from becoming obese.
Be sensitive to their special needs
Senior dogs often have special needs that require your attention. Their osteoarthritis may require them to have softer beds for comfort. If they live in a home with stairs, they may need an easier means of going up and down the stairs, especially if they have joint problems. If they are incontinent, you can have them wear diapers in order to avoid “accidents.”
Don’t brush off any symptom, no matter how mild or seemingly insignificant it may be
Many diseases start off with no symptoms at all. The moment you realize that something is off with your dog, even if it is as simple as lethargy or loss of appetite, you should bring him to the vet immediately for evaluation.
Remember that your dog cannot talk and cannot verbalize his/her pain, so you should be extra sensitive to these things. Prevention is better than cure.
When we adopt a dog, we are not only signing up for their strong and youthful years but their senior and challenging years as well.
We must be ready and willing to take care of them through thick and thin, regardless of our status and life and financial capability.
It is our responsibility to take care of them for as long as they live, and we must be willing to sacrifice our time and make adjustments in our lives for them.
Giving them up should not be an option. We must always be able to fit them into our lives as an exchange for their unconditional love, loyalty, and friendship.