Dogs age gradually—so much so that they are often far into their senior years before we even realize they are seniors. On average, small dogs become seniors around the age of 10, and large dogs become seniors around the ages of 5-7.
It’s important to realize the changes that may begin occurring and how to deal with them, notably to protect dog health care and well-being during the cold winter months.
Changes in Weight
As a dog’s body slows down, he may put on weight due to being less active, or he may lose weight due to less muscle mass. You may want look into pet insurance for older dogs and re-evaluate food intake and activity levels at this time. Pet insurance companies like Pets Best Insurance don’t have any upper age limits, and will insure a pet whether it’s 7 weeks old or 17 years old! Check out the feeding chart on your dog’s food or use a dog food calculator to determine if you need to feed less or switch to a food with fewer carbohydrates.
Remember that all dogs can benefit from exercise. Don’t let your dog turn into a couch potato just because it’s cold outside. Play and teach him new tricks indoors! According to the website for Hudson Highlands Veterinary Medical Group in Hopewell Junction, New York, “walks and play keep your dog in better shape, both mentally and physically,” and prevent your dog’s body from deteriorating faster.
Just like humans, senior dogs can experience a loss of vision, hearing, smell, and may begin reacting slower to stimuli or become easily startled. They can also become confused, forgetful, and unsure of their surroundings. This means senior pets may be more libel to wander, lose their way, and react slower to moving vehicles.
In the darker, colder winter months, dogs should be spending less time outdoors exposed to cold, ice, and salted concrete. But when outside, make sure your senior dog always wears identification, and consider reflective collars and leashes, or devices such as the Puplight. With three ultra bright white LEDs, the Puplight attaches to your dog’s collar and makes them visible from all angles for up to a mile away. This will help light her path if she’s losing vision, drivers spot her sooner, and you find them if they stray.
Beware of Too Much Change
Changes happen naturally as dogs age, but normal changes occur gradually. When signs of aging begin, consider dog insurance plans to help prepare you for sudden changes which may require a trip to the vet. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, such changes include:
• Loss or increase of appetite or thirst
• Vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than a day
• Sudden increase in abdomen size
• Chronic coughing or breathing problems