Generalities To Help Gauge Rates of Aging
Different breeds or body types show their age at different rates. Large, giant, and bully breeds may begin to show signs of aging at 6-7 years of age.
For many larger dogs their bodies seem to show signs of aging first, before you notice the emotional or mental signs.
Smaller dogs often live longer than larger breeds and may not show the stress of aging until they are 9 or 10. But many toy breeds lose some teeth earlier, due to the size of the lawbone.
Of course, there are exceptions to any of these generalizations, they are offered to give you a heads up.
One thing I have done is to ask someone to stop by who hasn't seen my aging dog for a while and ask what they see. Ask them to be honest, so you can benefit from another set of eyes.
As your dog ages they may exhibit several signs of how age is affecting them.
Some dogs become short-tempered and grumpy, others lose their appetite, and very commonly, they tire much more quickly. The daily walk they used to look forward to is greatly reduced in distance.
Schedule a vet visit to establish a Senior Baseline with bloodwork or x-rays and have their teeth checked. This gives you the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and plan for the next stages.
You may already switched to a senior food or have started giving senior vitamins.
Consider moistening your dog's food if they are on a kibble-based diet. If their teeth and gums need attention be sure they will withstand the anesthesia at their age. In the bully breeds older than six is usually not advised for anything elective.
You may need to switch to a moister, easier to chew food. Check with your vet.
Two Tips To Increase Your Senior Dog's Quality of Life
These are my top two all-time best tips for helping your senior dog's life be better.
If you only read these two tips, then this article on how to make your old dog happy and comfortable will have served its purpose.
#1 BE AWARE
Notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, eating, sleeping, exercise level and mood. If there are other members of your family, share with them what to look for and ask them to keep you informed.
Make adjustments based on the changes you’ve noticed to your dog's food, lifestyle and routine.
We have some more tools for you to use in the One More Thing FAQs tab below, but first things first!
Warm and Cozy
Old dogs chill more easily! Try a fluffy blanket on top of their bed, maybe a sweater for them and move their bed out of drafts.
Speaking of Beds
Snag a couple of thicker orthopedic (the egg crate ones) and keep beds in every room your dog visits. Washable covers, please.
“If the kindest souls were rewarded with the longest lives, dogs would outlive us all.”– Anonymous
Older dogs are not as steady on their feet.
Put a bath mat under their food and water bowl. Don't bother with a specific dog food mat, a small bathmat or towel, depending on the size of your dog will be easier. This gives them traction and is easy to keep clean, just toss in the machine.
Consider carpeting any steps your dog uses to keep them safe.
At some point you may have to install a gate to keep them from using the stairs. Do this before they tumble!
“Regardless of the age of a dog, they remain our babies to the end of time.”– Anonymous
Your Senior Dog May Want to Eat Earlier..At A Buffet
Feed a top-quality food and supplement as needed, with vet’s approval. Many older dogs like a softer food that is easier on their teeth.
If you notice your dog leaving kibble in the bowl or losing interest in food, you may need to soak it in some warm broth or add a quality soft food. This can also be asign of teeth issues.
Just like us, yep again, your senior dog may gain weight more easily than they did as an active adult. Keep your dog at a fit weight.
“Raising a dog is like a rainbow. Puppies are the joy at one end. Old dogs are the treasure at the other.”– Anonymous
Nails need to be trimmed more often, as many dogs become weaker in the pasterns (wrist area) and their nails are at less of an angle to the ground and won’t wear down on their own as easily. (Really? I know, it’s not fair).
Clean & Coiffed!
If your dog is professionally groomed consult with your groomer on their geriatric needs. They may need to groom your dog more often for shorter periods to lessen the stress.
If you’re a DIYer, brush more often as your more sedentary dog may be more prone to mats.
“People are born so they can learn to live a good life. Dogs already know how to do that; that’s why they don’t have to stay as long.”– W. Bruce Cameron
Reality Hits With Incontinence
There is no tiptoeing around this one. Your dog may forget housetraining and no longer ask to go out.
Sometimes they may not even realize they have soiled themselves or their bed. Now is the time for patience with an old friend as they be aging.
It is a tough one, as accidents always seem to be at the worst time.
“Every white hair is one day of experience in being the very best friend you’ve ever had.”– Jaymi Heimbuch
Sometimes it's just easier to shut the stinky old dog in the laundry room.
Some family members may complain about the dog being smelly or messy. That you can fix!
Do all you can to keep them a clean, fresh member of the family at this stage of their life and involve them in as much as they care to.
“I’m in a really good place right now. Not emotionally or spiritually. Just on the couch with my older dog.”– Anonymous
You don’t need me to tell you to love on your older dog every chance you get, but I’m going to anyway!
Love, cuddle, repeat.
Cherish this time you have, it will never be enough.
“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than making the last years of a pet’s life the best that they can be.”– Anonymous
As mentioned above, your dog needs a baseline senior exam so your vet can compare test results against it as your dog ages.
As they get older, your dog needs at least an annual senior checkup.
Together you and your vet can create a game plan for your dog’s senior years.
“A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart.”– Erica Jong
Dental needs should also be addressed, check with your vet on this one also.
Bad breath, chewing only on one side and refusing to eat hard foods are all dental issue alerts.
Our Bully Breeds and Toy Breeds often have more and earlier dental issues as thay age.
Some breeds, Bully and Giant, often don't do well with anesthesia later in life. Schedule a dental check-up for them at ages 6-7 just in case they need a dental.
“My dear old dog, most constant of all friends.”– Anonymous
While this rambling article is dedicated to helping our dogs age well, part of that is knowing when to say goodbye.
It's OK to Go is a booklet I wrote to help with some of the decisions to be made, tools to make them and more to help you navigate saying googbye. It also includes a chart to record your dog's good and not so good days.
It is in PDF format and opens a new window to our Google Drive shared folder. No password required (until Google changes something or another).
“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog”.– Sidney Jeanne Seward