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Aging Dog Care

Aging dog care is important to ensure the wellbeing and good quality of life for older dogs. This page looks at some essentials when caring for aging dogs, such as regular health and dental checkup and weight control.

older dog

These days, many dogs can live up to 17 to 20 years old, although the average dog lives about 13 years. Generally speaking, large dogs have shorter lifespans than smaller dogs.

Large dogs such as the Great Danes, German Shepherds, St. Bernards are considered senior at 6 to 9 years of age and old at 10 to 12.

Medium dogs are considered senior at 9 to 10 years of age and old at 12 to 14.

Toy breeds are considered senior at 9 to 13 years of age and old at 14 to 16 years.

How fast or slow a dog ages depends on the care the dog has received throughout his life. Well-cared-for dogs suffer fewer ailments when they grow older. On the other hand, dogs whose health and wellbeing have been neglected (e.g. those on a low-quality diet, those whose injury or sickness has not been attended to) tend to age faster.

Health Checkup - A Must for Aging Dog Care

While every dog should have an annual health checkup, it is even more important for aging dogs to undergo regular annual physical examination.

For medium and small dogs, they should have a complete veterinary examination at least once a year upon reaching 7 years of age. For large breed dogs, the age for annual exams is 5. If the health of the dog is problematic, he should be seen by a veterinarian more often.

The following should be included in an annual physical checkup:
  • A physical exmination
  • Blood tests (Complete blood count and blood chemistries)
  • Urinalysis
  • Check for parasites
  • Chest X-ray
  • Liver and kidney function tests
  • Thyroid levels
In addition to the above, dental care and examination should also be done, preferably semi-annually or more frequently as needed.

When To See a Vet

If your aging dog shows any of the following signs and symptoms, you should take him to the veterinarian without delay:
  • A growth or lump anywhere on the body
  • Bloody or purulent discharge from a body opening
  • Appetite and/or weight loss
  • Weakness or exercise intolerance
  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Panting or labored breathing, especially even when resting
  • Increased thirst and/or frequency of urination
  • A change in bowel function (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse or breathing rate
Check our page on Senior Dog Health to see some of the health problems that may be causing the above symptoms.

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Diet - An Important Aspect of Aging Dog Care

Older dogs have slower metabolic rate, are less active, and therefore require up to 30% fewer calories than do younger dogs. To prevent obesity in aging dogs, therefore, a reduced-calorie diet is necessary. Preventing obesity is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to prolong the life of an older dog.

How much food to give to an individual older dog depends on his health, metabolism, and activity level. Generally speaking, however, an older dog with a normal weight range (not too fat, not too thin) needs about 25 to 30 kcals per pound of body weight per day.

If your older dog's diet is not lower in calories, feeding the same amount may result in weight gain! It is advisable to switch over to a senior reduced-calorie diet in order to prevent obesity. Preferably, the senior diet should contain natural, nutritive, and high-quality ingredients, fortified with additional antioxidants and vitamins, especially B vitamins which are more easily lost in the urine of older dogs with reduced kidney function.

Here is an excellent natural senior dog food:
  • Orijen Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food: This senior dog food contains all natural ingredients with added herbs and vitamins for old dogs.

You should however consult your veterinarian first before changing your dog's diet. In addition, older dogs are less tolerant of changes in diet. Therefore, when changes are necessary, make them gradually over a period of at least one week.

Supplements - Another Key to Aging Dog Care

In addition to a health diet, aging dogs may have increased needs for certain supplements, such as antioxidants and vitamins. Depending on the individual dog, supplements for joints, the heart, or cognitive function may also become necessary. Visit our page on Best Dog Supplements for more information.
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