As dogs age it is important to learn and understand their aging process. Not all dogs age the same, and the aging process varies, depending on the breed. Similar to humans', dogs will experience a change in metabolism and their immune system will slow.
The common belief that one dog year equals seven human years are inaccurate based upon various factors. "The actual age of a dog in human terms depends on breed and size" (Purina). Statistically larger to giant dogs mature more quickly and live shorter lives. "Small and toy breeds live longer, not reaching seniority until about ten years old" (Purina). Chart below by Purina.
Tips to Care for Senior Dogs
For many people, seeing your dog age is disheartening. Like people, dogs age differently and each may experience one or more illnesses associated with the aging process. For example, some dogs will acquire arthritis or degenerative disease that will cause him to slow down while others will develop vision or smelling impairments. Not uncommon, senior dogs may require more dental care than required when they were younger.
Schedule regular veterinarian visits. Speak with your veterinarian to learn how often your dog should have check-ups. Depending on well or poorly your dog ages may be reflective of how often your dog has a check-up. Remember, it is less expensive to prevent disease rather than to treat a disease.
Understand your dog's body condition and body weight. Speak with your veterinarian to learn what is the best condition and weight for your dog. Similar to humans, overweight or underweight dogs may acquire health risks associated with improper weight. A veterinarian will help you learn how to monitor your dog's body condition and weight between visits.
A quality and healthy diet can prevent disease. Overweight dogs are more susceptible to acquire a variety of diseases such as diabetes, skin disease, heart disease, and cancers. "Dogs that are malnourished are less likely to be able to defend their body against illnesses. They are more prone to sickness and have a hard time getting well even from a minor sickness. Malnourished dogs are also at a higher risk for developing arthritis because there is a lack of fat cushioning the joints" (DogsNPaws).
There are numerous types of dog foods, vitamins, and supplements to ensure your dog intakes the necessary nutrients, calories, fats, enzymes, and so forth; helping his digestive system, bodily functions, and immune system to fight illness and disease while maintaining a healthy weight. If you are not sure of the best diet for your dog reach out to an animal nutritionist or your veterinarian.
Fish oils as a therapeutic and preventative supplement. Fish oils provide a good source of Eicosapentanoic Acid (EPA) & Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA). Fish oils are known to decrease inflammation throughout the body, effective for arthritis, urinary problems, cognitive, heart, and kidney disease, and various skin conditions. When administering medicines, vitamins, and supplements please speak with an animal health care specialist to discuss the best products and dosage amount for your pet.
Exercise is important for all dogs regardless of age. You can increase the opportunity for your dog to live a longer and enjoy a quality life by staying fit.
Exercise is good for the heart and lungs, blood flow, muscles, and joints. Exercise helps keep a dog mentally stimulated, engaged, and interactive while participating with activities. Chose an exercise suitable for your senior dog such as more walks, games of fetch, and tug-o-war. Like humans, swimming is a beneficial exercise for arthritic dogs as swimming is a low-impact but effective activity for losing the joints.
Embrace the Seniority of Your Dog
Watching your dog age is not always easy. Continue to love your dog when he is old as you did when he was young. Make an effort to keep him engaged with short play periods, and interact with him when family, and friends are visiting. If he has ever needed to rely on you now is the time.