On July 24th I tuned 57 and realized I am now in the demographic known as pre-senior…really. Yes, REALLY! I don’t think of myself as a pre-senior and am pretty sure I don’t act like one. But I am and there is no getting around that fact. Just like I have had to admit things don’t work like they used to and they sure are not WHERE they used to be, I also have to be more aware of the needs of our senior dogs. It is easy to think of our dogs as permanent puppies, romping and playing for hours.
But our senior dogs need extra TLC, just like all of us aging Boomers…and for those of you who are younger – you will be one of us one of these days!
It is not as simple as one dog year seven human years, though that is a good starting point. This is from the AVA and gives a better feel for when your breed is old. Personally, I believe that Brachycephalic dogs like French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Pugs and some others that are more exaggerated in body type age more like Giant Breeds than with their weight, A seven year-old French Bulldog is older than 44-47 human years, more like 60ish.
For the chart below: Small: 0-20 lbs; Medium: 21-50 lbs; Large: 51-90 lbs; Very large: >90 lbs
|7 dog years||Small – Medium: 44-47 human years|
|Large – Very large: 50-56 human years|
|10 dog years||Small – Medium: 56-60 human years|
|Large – Very large: 66-78 human years|
|15 dog years||Small – Medium: 76-83 human years|
|Large – Very large: 93-115 human years|
|20 dog years||Small – Medium: 96-105 human years|
|Large: 120 human years|
First, re-examine your older dog’s diet. No matter how active you think Rex or Sassy are, after the age of six or seven, it is time for Senior Food or other dietary allowances. They may need a grain-free food or one with less fat. Also, cut back on so many treats and make sure they have not accumulated any extra pounds. An extra pound or two can be a LOT on a small dog! The other end of the spectrum is the older dog who loses weight and is not as interested in their food. They may need to have their food pureed, moistened or even switched to a semi-solid type food. Watch them as they eat and see if they seem to have difficulty chewing or it takes longer than it used to for the bowl to be cleaned.
Second, keep those teeth clean. Many breeds, especially the Brachycephalic (flat-faced) ones have a genetic predisposition to tartar accumulation, so make sure you are having their teeth cleaned regularly before they get old. It is very stressful on an older dog to go under anesthesia unless absolutely necessary. Personally, I do not clean an older French Bulldog’s teeth, as I feel for that breed the benefits do not out-weigh the dangers. So stay on top of teeth cleaning when they are young and middle-aged.
For those who will be having teeth cleaned here are a few tips. Do the pre-anesthesia blood work and check up, of course. Share your concerns with your vet, maybe they have an alternative way to relax them. If teeth need to be pulled, do it, they probably won’t miss them. On breeds like Frenchies, Pugs, Bulldogs and most toy breeds they often have a bit of jumbled up teeth and they usually loose a few.
Third, cut/dremel/file their toenails more often. As their pasterns drop a bit with age, their toenails will hit the ground at a different angle. You may hear your dog dragging his or her feet a bit as they walk, so also make sure they do not rub the two toenails in the center of each front foot down into the quick.
Fourth, there may be some disorientation as they age. Like forgetfulness of where they are or what they were doing, much as happens to many people. If you notice your senior dog stopping and standing still and looking around as if they are not sure where they are, touch them gently and call their name. Reassure them a bit and maybe pick them up (if possible) or guide them to their bed.
Fifth, it can be easy to push the oldster aside if there are younger dogs. Remember when they were the king (or queen) and give them the respect and dignity they deserve. I am a bit guilty of being enamored of the newest bright, shiny anything myself and it is sooo easy to get caught up in playing with a new puppy. Not chastizing here, just gently reminding.
While on the subject of new puppies. Think long and hard about if it is fair to your senior to bring a puppy into the family. You know your dog’s personality. Some are revitalized by the presence of all that boundless puppy energy and others are…NOT. For the grumpy old guys and gals, you may wish to respect that stage of their lives and let them live out their golden years as a beloved only (or with the current pack members).
Sixth, exercise daily. I know, I know, I am one to talk and should push up from behind this computer and go for a walk. But a daily walk and a bit of play time will do you and your old dog both a lot of good! Monitor them, of course, to make sure the walk is not too much and err on the side of cutting the walk short and have them begging for more rather than pulling old muscles.
It is a great idea to establish a baseline as your dog moves into their senior years. Have your vet run a senior panel of bloodwork and give them a good once-over. You don’t want to annoy or upset your senior dog, so not too much poking and prodding, just enough to ensure you know where you are. This will allow you to have a plan of action for anything that might pop up. It also gives your vet info to refer to as your dog ages. After the age of 7-8 it is more important than ever to have annual vet checkups. It is much easier to deal with issues that are discovered earlier.
Last, give them a BIG HUG from me!
AND if you are able, at some point, consider adopting a senior dog. They have so much love to give and will enrich your life immeasurably! Plus, I heard a rumor that those who adopt senior dogs get brownie points on their karma balance sheet.