Due to improved veterinary care and dietary habits, pets are living longer now, than they ever have before. One consequence of this is that pets, along with their owners and veterinarians, are faced with a whole new set of age-related conditions.

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When does a dog become a senior?

The spectrum of life stages is affected by both the size and breed of the dog. In general, small dogs are considered senior at the age of seven. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter lifespans and are considered senior when they are approximately six years of age.

What are common senior dog health issues?

Common health issues include: cancer, heart disease, kidney/urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes, joint or bone disease, senility and/or weakness.

How should I care for my senior dog?

Increased veterinary care: Senior pets should have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits, so signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated. Senior pet exams are similar to those for younger pets, but are more in depth, looking for specific physical signs of diseases common in older pets and may include blood work.

Diet and nutrition: Senior dogs have different dietary requirements than younger dogs. Often, they require foods that are more easily digested, with specific nutrient and mineral levels to facilitate their changes in metabolism and activity levels.

Weight control: Weight gain in senior dogs increases the risk of health problems.

Maintaining mobility: Keeping older pets mobile through appropriate exercise promotes joint health and helps keep them overall healthier.

Mental health: Senior pets can show signs of senility. Stimulating them through training and puzzle activities can help keep them mentally active. If any changes in your pet’s behaviour are noticed, please consult your veterinarian.

Environmental considerations: Older pets may need changes in their lifestyle, such as more comfortable sleeping areas, ramps/stairs for furniture, assistance on stairs, more time indoors, etc.

Reproductive diseases: Non-neutered/non-spayed geriatric pets are at higher risk of mammary, testicular, and prostate cancers.

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