Caring for a Senior Dog

The rate of ageing differs between breed and size of the pet.

OVERVIEW

It’s a natural part of life for pets to grow old.

A senior pet is one that describes an ageing or older pet. The rate of ageing differs between breed and size of the pet.

Size of dog (kgs) Adult Senior Geriatric
<10 4-8 yrs 8-14 yrs 14+ yrs
10-23 3-8 yrs 8-12 yrs 12+ yrs
24-40 3-6 yrs 6-10 yrs 10+ yrs
>40 3-6 yrs 6-10 yrs 10+ yrs

Goals for senior care:

  • Enhance the human-animal bond
  • Promote early detection of abnormalities
  • Promote individualized medical care to enhance the quality of life

Focused areas of wellness in the senior pet:

  • Dental care
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Weight control – particularly weight gain in dogs
  • Parasite control
  • Exercise
  • Vaccination
  • Mental health including environmental enrichment
  • Housing and the accommodation of disabilities such as vision and hearing loss

SIGNS

As pets get older, they can start to show signs of old age including:

  • White hair around the muzzle
  • Poor hearing
  • Poor sight
  • Poor smell
  • Decreased energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fewer teeth
  • Stiff joints
  • Sleepy

Older pets can become sick more often. You can help by watching your pet every day for signs of a problem.

  • Increased drinking or peeing
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Decreased appetite or failure to eat
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Difficulty in peeing or pooping
  • Lameness
  • Bumping into things
  • Bad breath
  • Sleeping a lot
  • Hair loss
  • Panting or coughing
  • Weakness

It is important to keep feeding and sleeping habits consistent to avoid stress. Even vision-impaired pets cope well with a good routine and familiar areas. It’s from the middle-aged years that we should become more vigilant for early changes. Diseases can begin during these years and it often not until their senior years that the disease progresses to a point where the condition can become life-threatening. Early detection is important.

Common senior pet conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Dental disease
  • Hypothyroidism in dogs
  • Diabetes
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Incontinence (fecal and urinary)
  • Spinal cord disease
  • Vision loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart disease

It's a good idea to take your senior pet to the vets every 6 months so that any problems can be picked up early.

TIPS

Senior pets need special care:

  • Handle them gently
  • Provide them with soft but firm bedding
  • Keep the bed area away from cold draughts
  • Set up a ramp instead of stairs
  • Give them soft food
  • Provide them with elevated feeders
  • Provide them with slow and gentle exercise daily
  • Take them to the vet at least twice a year
  • Teach your pet hand signals with verbal signals
  • Avoid sudden movements
  • Use the ground for sending vibrations
  • Keep to a strict routine – meals and toileting