Just as we require extra support in our advancing years, our senior pets likewise need special attention to achieve optimal health throughout the ageing process. Here are five things you need to know about caring for cherished older pets:
1. Our dogs are living longer
Just like humans, a significant percentage of our dog population is ageing. Many dogs are living longer with the improvement of veterinary preventative health programs and greater recognition that management of age-related decline in dogs should include a range of methods and treatment, including supplements.
2. The definition of ‘senior’ is not dependent on age alone
Individually, when a dog becomes senior will depend on health, exercise routine and any pre-existing health conditions.
A dog is considered to have entered its senior years when it has reached the last quarter of its life expectancy. As a general rule, large dogs tend to age more quickly than smaller dogs. So, whilst a large dog like a Great Dane might be considered ‘senior’ after just five or six human years, for smaller dogs like Boston Terriers, it’s nine or ten years. And mid-sized dogs? Around eight human years.
3. Signs your dog is ageing
- Grey fur is the most obvious sign your dog is becoming a senior
- Loss of skin elasticity as the body produces less collagen
- Cloudy eyes often caused by nuclear sclerosis or cataracts
- Signs of joint pain / stiffness, such as during or after exercise, navigating stairs or hopping into or out of the car
- Change in appetite, coupled with abnormal weight loss or gain
- Panting, coughing or shaking in ways that their younger selves didn’t
- Anxiety in situations where they were previously confident, like when travelling, being left alone or among large groups of people or other pets
- Canine Cognitive Disfunction (CCD), similar to dementia in humans, affects around 15% of older dogs. With CCD, senior dogs can become disorientated or confused, interact less with other humans and dogs, forget their house training and can have trouble sleeping.
- Whilst dogs can experience dental health challenges from an early age, older dogs are at higher risk of gum and tooth problems including tooth decay, bad breath, plaque and swollen gums.
4. How to support your dog as it gets older
Regular vet visits
Your vet is the best partner as your dog becomes more senior. Consider making visits a little more frequent so any concerns can be addressed quickly.
Revisit your dog’s diet
Older dogs are more sedentary and can become obese if eating the same as their younger, more active selves. Try smaller meals, more often (rather than larger, less frequent ones) as they’re easier to digest and deliver energy across the course of the day.
Every dog is different so tailor exercise to what they enjoy and can do comfortably. It might be helpful to swap more active types of play with regular, gentler walks.
Mental exercise for senior dogs is just as important as physical activity - try some of these:
- Treat puzzles: interactive toys that your dog will have to ‘unlock’ to retrieve their favourite treat
- Training: yes, old dogs can learn new tricks! Try teaching your dog something age-appropriate, like balancing a treat on their nose or paw
- Explore new places: this might be as simple as a new route to the dog park, with new sights and smells to explore
- Meet new dogs: in a supervised and calm environment, making new friends can be invigorating. Best done with a gentle fur friend.
5. Supplements for senior dogs
Quality supplements can help relieve some age-related symptoms. ZamiPet Senior Support is formulated specially for the needs of older dogs, which may help alleviate symptoms associated with age-related decline, and supports immune, eye, heart and brain health.
The information in this article was checked by ZamiPet Veterinarian and General Manager Dr Andrew McKay, BVSc, University of Melbourne, 2000. Vet Registration No: V3985
Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.