How to Care for Your Senior Dog

Pet Health and Safety  •   Pam Karkow  •   Nov 10, 2016

Summer sleeps more than she is awake. She can only handle short walks around the block. Summer eats a prescription diet recommended by her doctor, whom she visits at least twice a year for a senior blood panel. She gets daily check-ups from her favorite three year-old, and plenty of love from the rest of her family too.

Summer is a 15-year-old Golden Retriever. She is a tough old girl, and we know there are many things we can do to keep her healthy and happy during her senior years. Here are some areas to pay particular attention to as your dog ages…

  1. Exercise: In Petfinder’s article, Caring for Your Senior Dog: Five Important Things to Know, Dr. Ernie Ward, DMV, says, “Exercise is critical to keeping your pet youthful – Keeping a pet lean as they age is one of the most important factors in preventing health issues.” Just pay attention to your pet’s stamina. As your pet ages, his joints cannot endure the long walks you may be used to giving him, but you can still take him for a quick jaunt. Enough to smell some good smells and say hi to the neighbors. Make sure you stay close to home in case your dog gets tired and refuses to walk. Take special care during the warm months of the year, as your older dog is more susceptible to heat exhaustion. See our post, Heat Safety for Your Pets, for more tips on handling the heat.
  2. Nutrition: As dogs age, they tend to become more picky about their food. With your vet’s guidance, you may find yourself experimenting with different foods until you find one your dog will tolerate. Some senior dogs need to be on a specific diet for their health. Summer is on a diet that is beneficial to her failing kidneys. For more information on how to feed your senior dog, see Petfinder’s articles on dog nutrition.
  3. Medical Care: Regular vet appointments are important for any dog, but they are especially important once your dog becomes a senior. The age at which a dog is considered a senior varies according to breed and size. Most of the time a dog is considered a senior between 5 and 10 years of age, according to PetMD’s Defining Senior Age in Dogs. Summer has been a senior for some time! She takes a pill to control her thyroid, so she has senior blood work done every six months to make sure the dose is correct. Blood work can also help diagnose anemia, blood cancers, kidney disease, and viral and bacterial infections.  For a complete list and more benefits of regular blood work, see Blood Work: What it Means and Why Your Pet Needs It from PetMD.
  4. Dental Care: Veterinarian Dr. Fred Metzger explains that dental care is especially important in a senior dog. He says, “older dogs and cats with neglected teeth are time bombs ticking.” Check out our post, National Pet Dental Health Month, for more tips on keeping your dog’s teeth clean.
  5. Emotional Care: Talk to your pet. Involve her in your daily routine. Make sure she feels like part of your family. If you are too busy to spend time with your pet, put your kids on the job. Three-year-olds make great playmates. My toddler and his friends love cooking food for Summer and giving her checkups. “Play and exercise will provide mental stimulation for your pet,” according to Dr. Lorie Houston, DMV.  Keeping your pet’s mind sharp will help to ensure good quality of life in her later years.

By paying attention to these important areas, you can make sure your dog lives a long and happy life. 

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Pam Karkow

About the Author
Pam Karkow

Hi, I'm Pam. List maker, note taker, and avid reader. I'm married to my college sweetheart and we have three amazing kids, all of them boys. We also have one furry child, a golden retriever rescue dog. I have been blogging for PetPartners since 2015, and I love researching and writing tips about how to be a better pet parent. I spend most of my time sharing my adventures at lavenderandlaugh.com, where I share the ways I am learning to be a better wife and mom--to my two and four-legged children.