Usually the answer is they become a senior canine citizen between the age of 8 and 10. Their needs are changing and their activity levels are decreasing. This special page will address some concerns and highlights of our Golden Retriever’s senior years.
I found that Winger’s nutritional needs changed when he is 11. He had been on a raw diet since he was 4 or 5 years old because of his complete intolerance to all grains. I had a harder time keeping weight on him as he got older. He definitely has less muscle and it’s probably because of that that his spine appears to stick out more. He seemed to need more protein to keep his muscle tone. This observation is mirrored in the newest trend of dog food companies changing their senior formulas from lower protein to higher protein. I recommend avoiding senior commercial pet foods that have lower protein and higher grain content because protein is so important to an older dog.
My Winger had arthritis from his hip displasia. Liquid Glucosamine is the best non-prescription treatment I’ve found to keep him mobile and keep him from getting too stiff. We had success with Syn-Flex and Flexicose. If your senior has arthritis, exercise is still important. It keeps their muscles developed and helps work out their stiffness.
Grooming your senior dog is just as important or more important in their older age than when they are young. Sometimes their coats may become dryer and may mat easier as they age. It’s also an excellent opportunity to feel for lumps and bumps and monitor their size and the condition of your dog’s skin. Your older dog probably doesn’t exercise as much as when they were younger, meaning their nails will have less opportunity to wear down. This means you need to make sure you trim your dogs nails often – preferrably at least every 3 weeks if not more often. Long nails can affect your dog’s movement and can cause leg and back problems.
Exercise is still important for senior dog. It helps keep your dog healthy by keeping their weight down, and their muscles toned. It is also important for their heart and circulatory system, as well as their lungs. Instead of one long walk a day, a couple shorter walks may suit your senior dog better. A bonus to having a senior dog is they can often obtain enough exercise while still on a leash!
Things to Watch for
Keep your dog’s weight within a healthy range. Monitor their breath and mouth for signs of bad teeth or periodontal disease. You need to bring your dog to a vet right away if you notice sudden weight loss, a serious loss of appetite, increased thirst, frequent urination, coughing or excessive panting.
Senior Dog Conditions
It is important to have your dog receive a full vet check-up when they become a senior. This vet visit should include a full blood panel so you have base line values to compare with should they become sick in the future. A yearly blood panel and urine test can also help your vet monitor your dog’s liver and kidney function. Some diseases and ailments found in older dogs include: Cushing’s Disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, and heart disease.
Many pet owners invest in pet insurance for piece of mind that they won’t be caught short of cash should an emergency arise with their pets. Just because your dog is a senior now, that does not mean you can no longer take the advantage of having coverage. Quickcare is a pet insurance company that has put together a special insurance package specifically for seniors with extensive coverage and fixed deductibles! (link: QuickCare Pet Insurance Programs) If you don’t have pet insurance, please try to have a ‘reserve’ built up. Senior dogs can require extra medical attention in their last days. Surf’s last week before she died cost me $1200 in vet visits, prescriptions, x-rays, and blood work. Try to keep a credit card empty or have a credit line available so you can do everything you want to should your dog become sick.
Senior Dog Quirks
Has your senior developed some senior quirks? I know Winger definitely was barkier when he was excited, and he sure groaned a lot when he stole someone’s arm chair seat when they left the room. Just not as sneaky as he once was with all that groaning as he curls up. Leave a comment below and tell us about your dog’s senior quirks!