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Making the Transition from Adult to Senior Dog

By: Heather Stern

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Dogs age at a rapid pace and before you know it your best friend might be considered a senior dog. As your dog ages from adult to senior you may notice some changes and special requirements that need to be met. Knowing what to expect can better prepare dog owners to deal with their new senior pet.

When is my dog considered a senior?

For most dogs around 7-years-old is when they are considered senior. This number may be higher for small breed dogs and slightly lower for large breed dogs. For information on better estimation of your pet's age in comparison to human years, please read Dogs and People – What is the Age Comparison?

What changes can I expect as my dog becomes a senior?

  • You may first notice changes in your dog's activity level. Similar to people, elderly dogs may not have the same amount of energy they once did.

  • It is common to see weight changes in your senior dog. With the change in your senior dogs' activity level metabolic changes could result in weight gain or loss.

  • Many diseases are more prevalent in senior dogs. These diseases include, but are not limited to: dental, heart and kidney disease; as well as diabetes, arthritis, cancer and cognitive function disorder. The following symptoms are common signs that your senior pet may be ill:

    - Increase thirst or urination
    - bad breath
    - difficulty climbing stairs or jumping up and/or increased stiffness or limping
    - excessive panting or barking
    - confusion or disorientation
    - changes in skin and hair coat

    If you notice any of these symptoms you should have your senior dog checked out by your veterinarian.

    How can I keep my senior dog happy and healthy?

    There are several changes you can make to your pets routine lifestyle to maintain health for your senior dog.

  • Consider changing from adult to senior dog food. The nutritional value in premium dog foods, are designed to meet the needs of your pets age and lifestyle. For information on how to select a nutritionally balanced diet for your senior dog, please read Feeding Your Senior Dog.

  • Increase the frequency of your dog's routine veterinary examinations. Thorough veterinary visits are a great way to detect the early onset of illness that might not be noticed at home.

  • Pay attention to detail- the smallest change in your senior dog could be the sign of an early onset illness. Small changes in behavior, attitude and daily routine may indicate that your pet is not feeling the best.

  • Tailor your schedule to your senior dogs' needs. Remember your senior dog will need daily exercise and possibly more frequent bathroom trips.

    Keeping your senior dog happy and healthy may require some special attention, but utilizing some of the simple steps above can help your senior dog easily maintain a wonderful senior lifestyle and make the transition from adult to senior a little easier.

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