when is a dog considered a senior?
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Has your furry best friend reached their golden years? It can happen before we know it–one day they’re puppies, chewing through socks and squatting on puppy pads. Next thing you know they’re opting for a nice, long nap instead of playing all day. So when does the change happen?
Senior pets can have a wide range of needs, but the best way to support any pet is with love and patience. We’ll discuss when to know your pet has reached a distinguished “senior” status, what that means, and how best to maintain their ongoing health.
Your dog used to have the zoomies when you got home from work. Now, they slowly canter up to say hello. What’s the deal? Well just like people, dogs will naturally slow down with age as energy levels begin a downward trajectory. The risk of arthritis and hip dysplasia will also increase with age, so keep an eye out for signs of pain or discomfort accompanied by reduced mobility.
As humans, our tastes often change or narrow as we age–and it’s the same case for senior dogs! Your senior dog may no longer like the treats they once loved, or eat less than they used to. Smell and taste receptors will weaken as your dog grows older, which can influence their appetite and preference for certain foods.
Your senior dog will also have a lower MER (maintenance energy requirement) as their energy output drops and they slow down. That means they won’t need to eat as much to fuel their energy levels, since they aren’t playing as hard or as long as they once did and are becoming more sedentary.
Even if your senior dog is eating less than they did when they were younger, they’ll still be at higher risk for weight gain. A slower metabolism, decreased energy levels, and age-related thyroid or hormonal illnesses can all lead to geriatric weight gain in dogs.
As your dog ages, their immune system may no longer function at its full potential–increasing the likelihood of worsening of allergic conditions. Symptoms of existing allergies may intensify, or your senior dog may develop a new allergy that causes unfamiliar allergy symptoms.
Is your senior dog losing more fur than usual? A thinning coat can be part of a dog’s natural aging process, making the coat look a bit less fluffy or vibrant with more dander than usual. Significant hair loss or bald patches should be evaluated by your vet to rule out other causes like hormone-related alopecia, external parasites, and secondary infections on the skin.
If your senior dog’s skin is dry, scaly, or itchier than normal, that could also be part of the aging process. Dermatitis (skin irritation) can be more prevalent in senior dogs who are at higher risk for allergies, vitamin deficiencies, and hormonal abnormalities.
Arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of the joints, leading to symptoms like pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. According to the Arthritis Foundation, one in five dogs will get arthritis as they age. The condition can be more likely in certain dog breeds like German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers, as well as senior dogs, obese dogs, and dogs who have a history of excessive physical exertion.
Senior dogs need more support than younger or middle-aged dogs. Physical accommodations in their environment can help, and what you feed them will matter more than ever. If you’re thinking of adopting a senior dog or you have a dog who’s “getting up there,” take a look at these easy ways to support your senior pet:
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