Senior dog: this changes with age
That's how fast your cute ball of fur grows up, suddenly it's an adult and finally - sooner than you think - you have an old dog senior at your side. The needs in old age change, just like in humans. In this article, we'll explain what your gray-snouted four-legged friend needs and how you can best support him in aging with dignity.
At what point is a dog a senior?
For us humans, the age of our pet is easier to understand if we convert it into human years.
As you can see, dog development is very different and varies according to breed, size and general health. A large Great Dane, for example, ages faster than a small Jack Russell Terrier, which is often still lively at the age of 10.
You may notice these signs of aging as your dog gets older:
- gray fur, especially on the muzzle
- everything slows down, the energy decreases and your darling becomes calmer
- your dog looks more weak, because his muscle mass decreases
- at the same time he tends to get thick
- less urge to move, condition and mobility, e.g. when climbing stairs
- eyes become cloudy, his vision diminishes
- teeth discolor from yellow to brown and show increased signs of abrasion
- Teeth become loose, bad smell develops more quickly due to bacteria in the spaces between them
- Bladder weakness leads to wet corners now and then
- he is freezing faster and therefore more often than before
Our tip: If you have the impression that your dog is gradually getting older and may be struggling with one or two limitations, your vet will probably notice this at the next check-up. He can give you tips on how you can best support your pelt nose now.
This changes in the dog with age
Some signs of aging are part of a normal aging process and will affect your life together and your daily routine in the future. This is what changes for your dog in this phase of life:
- Strength and energy: Extended walks at a quick pace, exuberant romping and playing with other dogs or even dog sports - such activities are less attractive to senior dogs. They no longer need so much exercise.
- Energy requirement: If your senior has less urge to move, his energy requirements are also lower. In addition, his metabolism slows down. If you were to continue feeding him the way you have been, you would soon be struggling with overweight. To avoid this, change your aging pet's nutrition. Special senior food contains important fiber for digestion, suitable proteins and essential fatty acids (e.g. for the coat), vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, e.g. for the joints - and with the right number of calories.
- Digestion: The intestinal flora and its bacteria play a major role in the health and well-being of your dog. In old age, for example, dogs tend to get constipated more quickly because the intestines work more slowly. Fiber is therefore an important part of the diet in old age. Some animals are sensitive to small morsels fed on the side - for example, with acute diarrhea.
- Musculature: The muscles of your dog's upper body are now becoming less, while fat is increasing. It is therefore important that you continue to challenge the muscles. In combination with suitable senior food, you can prevent overweight from causing problems for the joints.
- Incontinence: With age, incontinence develops in many dogs because the sphincter of the bladder no longer functions properly.
- Appetite: Sense of smell and taste diminish, the teeth may hurt and the digestion worked better - all these can be reasons why your quadruped has less appetite.
- Teeth: Dental care takes on an even more important role in old age. Painful inflammation of the gums can additionally weaken the old immune system, and bacteria have an easy time of it if dental hygiene is poor. And let's face it: even bad breath caused by tartar or dog food remnants is probably not considered pleasant by most people.
- Vision and hearing: As in humans, eyesight deteriorates with age and hearing deteriorates.
- Behavior change: If, as an elderly person, you can see and hear much less than before, your insecurity in everyday life is likely to increase - whether in familiar situations at home or even more so in unfamiliar surroundings or with unfamiliar people. Your senior dog is no different: he may react with increased barking and aggression, suddenly develop separation anxiety or simply seem disoriented and lost.
- Need for sleep: Your senior dog is now sleeping more during the day and needs more rest.
- Diseases: Osteoarthritis and diseases of the joints increase in many animals with age. In addition, the immune system is weaker, the defenses no longer work as efficiently, so your senior dog is more susceptible to diseases. If your dog drinks more than before, this can indicate that a kidney disease is present or that the kidney is no longer working optimally due to age. Diabetes, dementia and tumors are unfortunately not uncommon in dogs and must be treated by a veterinarian.
- Skin and coat: Often the skin now becomes drier and flakes faster. The coat often becomes duller and straw-like.
What does an old dog need?
As a dog owner, you always keep an eye on your senior dog's needs in everyday life: Is he exhausted and in need of a break? Or does he seem immobile and you could do him some good with a lightly massaging dog brush or a cuddle session with a currycomb? You know best how he's doing right now, when it's too much for him, and what he needs. Our 8 tips for a better quality of life for your senior dog will give you some additional clues:
- Senior food: When feeding, switch to digestible senior food, the composition of which is optimally adapted to the needs of your old dog. Instead of one feeding, it is best to prepare smaller amounts of food several times a day. And don't forget to drink!
- Adjust walk rounds: Exercise is still important for your dog. Depending on how fit he is, you can choose shorter routes and slow down the pace. If the round through the park is too exciting for him, just go for a walk in a quieter corner. Exploring a new area is also exciting for a senior dog: you can make up for the now missing exciting hours of play. Adjustable dog harnesses that still fit securely and do not chafe, even with increasing muscle loss, can now provide you with valuable services.
- Encourage and challenge: If your dog is prone to joint pain, get tips from an osteopath, veterinarian or dog physiotherapist on how to keep your four-legged friend's musculoskeletal system supple so that he stays fit for as long as possible and doesn't suffer from long-term pain.
- More sleep and rest: Give your elderly roommate enough rest and sleep in a comfortable dog bed, which is ideally orthopedically supportive.
- More consideration: The resilience of your dog decreases with age - that is unfortunately a fact. But it also holds opportunities: You are not permanently required to offer your dog a full program, so why not shift down a gear together? And if you do get the urge to go out and about, a healthy dog will feel comfortable at home even if you're alone for a few hours.
- Closeness: You are and remain the most important point of reference in your four-legged friend's life and provide him with valuable security. When his abilities and his perception of the environment change so decisively, he is grateful to know that you are by his side as often as possible.
- Adjust habits: Whether it's climbing the stairs up to your favorite vantage point in the woods, doing outdoor activities together, or your annual vacation in the mountains, now is the time to question whether you can still keep it all the same. For the sake of your faithful companion, maybe you'll spend the vacation together at home this year?
- Regular checkups: Although a visit to the vet may not be as easy as it used to be, it's still wise to have your dog grandma or grandpa examined regularly. Supposedly normal signs of aging can also indicate serious diseases - with veterinary control you are on the safe side.
Conclusion: You've known your faithful companion inside and out for years now, possibly since he was a puppy. In such a close relationship, it is not so easy to deal with things becoming increasingly difficult for your gray pelt-nose, its energy decreases or it even falls ill. All the more you enjoy the carefree hours together, the dozing in the spring sun or the cuddles in between. How do you spend your senior dog's twilight years? What have you had good experiences with? Tell us about it - we are curious!