What You Should Know About Elderly Dog Care
January 05, 2021 | 3 min read
Updated August 8, 2022
By Sarah Milton
Summary: In this blog, we learn how to take care of senior dogs. As your dog grows older, their needs change - particularly when it comes to their physical abilities. Learn when a dog is considered old and all about proper senior dog care...
As your dog gradually gets older, it can be hard to know how to look after them. As they begin to age, what nutrients should they be getting? Should you still throw toys for them? And, how often should you exercise them?
To answer the questions you still might be unsure about, we’ve pulled together this blog on what you might not know about elderly dogs, and how best to look after them and their maturing joints and bones…
When Is A Dog Considered ‘Senior’?
There isn’t a specific age when your dog suddenly becomes ‘old’ as their age really depends on their life expectancy - which also depends on their size and breed. Larger dogs tend to have a shorter life expectancy, whereas smaller dogs usually live for much longer. Larger dogs are considered to be ‘old’ at around 5-6 years, and smaller ones at around 7-8. And some dogs, particularly smaller breeds, can live nearly double that age! This is why learning how to care for a senior dog is important...
The Biggest Issue A Senior Dog Faces?
Occasional Joint Discomfort
Joint discomfort can be extremely common in senior dogs, and can be uncomfortable for your pup. In a nutshell, your dog’s joints age alongside your dog. Inside a dog’s joints, bone surfaces are normally covered with a thin layer of smooth cartilage and joint fluid, which allows bone movement.
Natural wear and tear from an active lifestyle can also leave your pup’s joints in discomfort, but younger dogs are known to experience occasional challenges, too.
So, as your dog grows older, supporting their joint health is key for a happy, healthy life…
How To Support Senior Dogs
Watch Their Weight
Being overweight for a dog can be a serious problem. They may not know it, but as a responsible pet parent, you should! There are numerous health risks associated with being even slightly overweight, and these can become far more severe if your dog is extremely overweight and/or a senior dog.
There are many factors that could lead to a dog putting on weight, including old age, a sedentary lifestyle, and having an unplanned diet. No matter the reason, if your aging dog is overweight it could lead to problems.
The first thing you can do is check to see if your senior dog is overweight, by feeling their ribs and spine. When stroking their stomach or back, you should be able to slightly feel their bones. If their bones are buried under the fat, and you struggle to feel them, it’s likely that they’re overweight. And, if you feel the bones protruding through too prominently, this could indicate that the pup is underweight.
See Where Your Pet Ranks On The PetLab Co.’s Body Condition Assessor
The second method is assessing their movement. Overweight dogs can experience joint discomfort, from the strain of the excess weight on their bones. If you notice your senior dog is moving slower or less willing to do exercise, this could be a sign that their weight is impacting their life.
Keep Exercising A Senior Dog
One of the most common misconceptions about aging dogs is that exercise should stop becoming a key part of their lives. The truth is, as a dog ages, it’s more important than ever that they keep active! Older dogs are at higher risk of becoming obese, developing heart issues, and experiencing some form of joint discomfort, so exercise is the perfect way to keep them active and moving. Specifically, with regards to joint health, frequent exercise helps lubricate joints and limit stiffness, which means a more active, happier dog - all year long.
Even if it might be hard for your dog to get up and outside, even daily walks for around 20 to 30 minutes can be a big help. To help keep the impact of any excess strain low, try doing two short walks a day instead of one long one, and reduce energetic interactions so keep it low when throwing toys as jumping/leaping can hurt older dogs.
Or try something new! Have you ever considered swimming with your dog? This can be a pain-free alternative for exercising your dog because it’s low impact on the joints and will help develop muscle mass.
PetLab Co. Pro Tip: Excess weight will slow down your dog because there’s additional strain on their joints. If they’re less enthusiastic about going for walks or playing in the yard, they could be suffering and need to shed some weight.
Provide Your Senior Dog With A Targeted Supplement
Many owners who are caring for a senior dog aren’t aware of how much science has advanced in the realm of dog joint supplements – and they really should be. Over the last two decades, there have been a number of fantastic joint-supporting supplements cropping up on the pet market backed up by sound scientific research which could be amazing for your pup, too. Look for Omega 3, Glucosamine, and Vitamins C & E which all work to encourage mobility and strength.
Look for scientifically optimized supplements that have been specifically formulated to promote flexibility, strength, and comfort and are designed to support the long-term health of connective tissues, like the ones we created here at PetLab Co.'s Joint Care chews. A good, cause-targeted supplement from a reputable, high-end pet brand can be considered essential for supporting your mature dog during exercise and daily activities.
PetLab Co.'s In-House Pet Consultant Nicole's Inside Knowledge
“As dogs age, their nutritional requirements change. Their metabolic rate is reducing so they are naturally decreasing the percentage of lean body tissue and increasing their body fat. This is why senior dogs require diets with less fat and fewer calories. It’s important for your pup to not gain any weight in order to minimize strain on their joints.
You can achieve this by feeding a high-quality diet specifically tailored to senior dogs from a reputable brand.
The most important therapy for stiffening joints is the combination of weight control, exercise management, and continued use of the muscles around the joints, so continuing with controlled exercises is very important for the joint health of geriatric dogs.”
Stay On Top Of A Senior Dog’s Nail Clipping
Something so small can actually have a huge impact on how your dog gets around. Walking can become uncomfortable for their joints, because of the misalignment of their legs. Long nails push the bones out of their natural position, which can have a domino effect, as the leg bones connect to the spine too! Cutting their nails keeps pressure off the joints, keeping their movement healthy.
How To Set Up A Safe Home Environment For Your Senior Dog
You can help slow down the degeneration of your senior dog’s joints and care for them in a number of ways, some of which can even prevent more damage from occurring. One of those is setting up your home for the job. You’d be surprised at how much a simple change of furniture can have on your dog’s joint health!
Invest In A Good Dog Bed
Choose a comfortable and supportive bed for them as this will keep their bones happy. Also making sure the bed is in a warm part of the house - which can prevent the bones from becoming stiff, especially when they are sleeping for a longer period of time.
Consider Ramps And Steps
If your senior dog is finding it difficult to climb up and down steps, it might be worth considering installing ramps around the home/garden to help them get around or in and out of the car. If you let your dog on the couch, consider what that leap might be doing for their bones… One way to get them up more easily is by using a ramp/steps for anything they might climb on or into – this works for when they need to get into the car too.
Also, think about your floor when caring for a senior dog. It may seem daunting to change the flooring in your home, but it can really make a difference to your dog’s physical health! If you have slippery flooring, such as ceramic tiles or laminate wood, it may be worth swapping it for carpet or vinyl, which are softer and less slippery. The other alternative is to put down some rugs – it will make every paw-step a bit easier.
Our final thoughts on elderly dog care…
When it comes to your dog, you only want the best for them. That’s all we want for ours here at PetLab Co. too! Remember, caring for an elderly dog doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds, as long as you’re willing to adapt with them along the way.
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!