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When is a dog considered a senior?

Our dogs' lifestyles, veterinary care, and nutritional needs start to change as they age. Today, our Woburn vets list the signs of old age and discuss special care requirements. We also share insight into when your dog is considered a senior. 

How old is a senior dog?

The age at which your dog becomes a senior varies greatly depending on the dog's breed. Large dog breeds typically age faster. Here is a general guide:

Small breeds are considered senior dogs, around 10-12 years old. 

Medium breeds are considered senior dogs at about 8-9 years old. 

Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs at around 6-7 years old. 

Signs That Your Dog is Getting Old 

When pet owners ask us, 'What age is a dog a senior?', many are concerned about when they might see symptoms of aging in their beloved pets. 

Your dog's physical appearance and behavior will change as it ages. While the hair around its muzzle will gradually become grey, this is a natural progression of aging and does not require specific veterinary care. However, other changes may be more drastic, and additional vet care may be needed depending on the circumstances. 

Some signs that your dog is getting older include: 

  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Reduced heart, kidney, and liver function 
  • White hairs on the muzzle and face 
  • Joint and arthritis issues
  • Hearing and/or vision loss 
  • Tooth loss or gum disease 
  • Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping 
  • Reduction of mental acuity 

Care Requirements for Senior Dogs 

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your dog feel more comfortable as they age. 

Proactive Vet Care 

Our veterinarians at Woburn believe that proactive, preventive care is essential for helping your pet live a long, healthy life. Scheduling routine wellness exams for your senior dog gives your vet the opportunity to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions or health issues and begin treatment as soon as possible if needed. Your veterinarian will also inquire about your senior dog's diet, nutrition, and mobility, and provide beneficial recommendations for adjustments to your dog's exercise or diet.

Nutritional Needs

As your dog ages, their nutritional needs will change due to changes in overall health and exercise levels. Senior dogs tend to slow down and may be at risk of weight gain, which can lead to other health issues, such as joint pain and cardiovascular conditions. It's important to consult your vet about adjusting your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a food formulated for weight loss.

Your vet may suggest a specific brand of dog food or nutritional supplements to support your aging dog's healthy diet. A proper diet and good nutrition can greatly benefit your dog's physical health and may even help maintain their cognitive function as they age. Just like humans, dogs can experience conditions similar to dementia or Alzheimer's. Feeding your dog food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, combined with regular exercise, may help them stay mentally alert.

Physical & Mental Exercise

As your dog ages, physical activity remains just as important, if not more. Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining their health and keeping their joints healthy. However, you may need to adjust the type of exercise you provide. For instance, try shorter, more frequent walks if your dog struggles with long walks.

At every stage of life, mental stimulation is incredibly important. It's never too late to teach your pup a new trick or introduce a new puzzle. There are various options available for problem-solving activities for dogs, such as puzzle feeders that make your dog work for their kibble.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your senior dog due for a wellness checkup? Contact our Woburn vets to book an examination for your canine friend.

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Woburn Animal Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of your pet. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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