In honor of senior dogs, and the extra special attention they so richly deserve, this blog is dedicated to our furry elders.
The rule of thumb that 1 dog year = 7 human years is approximate, yet not entirely accurate. Think about it this way: a dog at the tender age of 6 is the equivalent of a 45-year-old human. At 10, they’re almost 65; 12 =75; and at 15 = 90; with varying degrees of aging based on the dog’s size.
VCA, with over 750 hospitals and 4700+ Primary Care Veterinarians, clarifies further:
“Pets age at a faster rate than people. It is a popular misconception that one calendar year equates to seven years in a dog’s life. In actual fact, in one calendar year a dog may age the equivalent of four to fifteen years in a human’s life. The reason for this dramatic difference is that puppies reach maturity very quickly, and are essentially adolescents or young adults by a year of age – thus they are considered to be the equivalent of a 15 year old by their first birthday. During the second year, the rate of aging slows down a little so that the average dog is considered to be the equivalent of a 24-25 year old by their second birthday. After that, the rate of aging is estimated to be 4-5 dog years per calendar year, depending on the size and breed. Large breed dogs age relatively more quickly than small breed dogs. By the time your dog reaches its 6th birthday, it will be either middle-aged (if a small or medium breed dog) or geriatric (if a large breed dog).”*
It’s important to carefully monitor your senior dog’s health and keep him active and mentally stimulated, while also instituting appropriate dietary adjustments as he ages.
The biggest favor you can offer your dog (and yourself) is to schedule Veterinary well exams at least once per year, if not semi-annually for seniors. A well exam is more comprehensive than your typical vaccination visit and is not always included in those routine appointments. In many cases, a wellness examination can help detect the early stages of disease, particularly more likely in a geriatric pet.
A wellness examination is a complete physical examination along with diagnostic testing that may include blood work, urinalysis, and checking a stool sample for parasites. Special equipment is used to listen to heart and lungs, examine ears and eyes and check vital signs. Blood tests may include a complete blood cell count and chemistry panels to test for possible anemia, infection or organ disease.
A senior well exam can be more important than maintaining certain vaccinations. Talk to your Vet about the necessity of Parvo/Distemper shots past the age of 10. Additionally, after the age of 2, these vaccinations can be administered every 3 years (vs. annually); if you consider the suggestions from the American Veterinary Medical Association:
“Many vaccinations provide adequate immunity when administered every few years, while others require more frequent schedules to maintain an acceptable level of immunity that will continually protect your pet.”
Dogs with suppressed immune systems or existing health conditions require case-by-case consideration, wherein some or all vaccinations could be more harmful than beneficial. The money you save on less frequent vaccinations can be “banked” for your dog’s well exams instead.
Early diagnosis of potential health conditions will make the difference in adding years to your dog’s life.
It’s easy to miss the subtle signs of “senioritis” until symptoms present which sometimes require an unplanned, emergency vet visit. Dogs are very good at masking their pain. If you notice just a hint of unusual vocalization, excessive panting, unusual pacing, disorientation, body tremors, inability to get comfortable or rest peacefully, your dog is telling you something. If the vocalization becomes a howl, your dog is likely in serious pain.
Decreased eyesight and hearing is a natural aging condition for many dogs, along with newly developed lumps and bumps that are most likely benign; yet should be analyzed by your Vet.
Compromised mobility is common in seniors. If your dog isn’t climbing the stairs, walking as far, has trouble getting up or down or slips on slick floor surfaces, anti-inflammatories and/or joint supplements can help.
CBD for pets is also gaining popularity in providing relief for older dogs with stiff joints, periodic lameness, inflammation and arthritis. CBD is also being used as an alternative supplement for pets with pain and anxiety. For more information about CBD, read our blog @ https://doolittlesdoghouse.com/the-abcs-of-cbd/
Exercise is still important for your senior dog, however moderate and tempered for his ability. This helps maintain a healthy body weight as overweight dogs suffer from a number of health problems.
Whether your dog is or isn’t experiencing weight loss or gain, please consider his current diet and discuss with your Vet if it’s time to switch from adult dog food to a senior dog or therapeutic diet. Adding vitamin supplements, and which ones, should also be discussed with your Vet.
You want to develop a meaningful relationship with your family Vet, as they will be your dog’s other partner throughout his life.
What to look for when selecting a Veterinarian:
Word of mouth, via friends, neighbors, rescue groups and breed-specific organizations is always a great way to canvas for recommendations. Yelp and google reviews add another layer to your research yet helpful.
A warm and friendly staff is important. How you are treated on the phone and in their office will dictate how your dog is treated. Your vet should be calm and able to put your dog at ease. Consider your dog’s perspective when visiting a vet. Those unique medicinal smells, other anxious dogs pacing and panting in the lobby and sick dogs barking and whining in the background does not yield a “yippee I’m glad I’m here” reaction. A good vet will know how to manage your dog’s stress. Difficult subjects, such as cancer care, chronic disease planning, when to spay or neuter and peaceful passing are best discussed with a vet who cares about your dog’s quality of life and not their rent payment.
Ask about care costs and if a payment plan is available. A pet insurance plan should also be considered as part of your pet’s wellness program; for all of your dog’s life stages.
We endorse Embrace Pet Insurance as an affiliate marketer. Embrace is one of the few pet insurance companies that offers a wellness plan. Their Wellness Rewards program is a flexible routine care plan that reimburses for everyday veterinary, training, and grooming costs and worth a look. Visit our Pet Shop page for a link to their website and plan options: https://doolittlesdoghouse.com/pet-shop/
Doolittle’s Doghouse share’s your devotion to your pets, at all ages and stages, and we thank you for your special commitment to your very special seniors.
Please call us for loving, cage-free dog boarding in our private homes or pet and home care in yours.
photo credit: Senior Dog image found on Vetstreet.com