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Eight Ways to Care for a Senior Dog

Adult dog on raftStay Healthy During the Golden Years Great news for dog parents: Our dogs are living longer than ever before. Just like people, dogs have changing needs as they age. Here are some simple things you can do to help your senior dog stay healthy, happy, and vital.

When is my Dog a Senior?

While every dog is different, there are general guidelines to determine when they become "senior citizens." Dogs, in general, may be called senior at seven years of age, but larger dogs age more quickly. Six or seven is senior for a Great Dane, for example, but only middle age for a Chihuahua. Ultimately your dog’s genetics, nutrition and environment will all play a role in determining when they are a senior.

Make the Veterinarian Your First Stop

Regular check-ups are essential to your dog’s health, and become even more important as your dog ages. Age-related diseases can be subtle, and symptoms may be easy to miss. Through regular exams and blood tests, your veterinarian can establish a baseline of what is normal for your dog. This will help alert you when something is not right. If you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, appetite, or energy level, be sure to check with your veterinarian. (Ed. note: Senior dogs are advised to see a veterinarian every six months.)

Choose the Right Dog Food

If your older dog is less active, he needs fewer calories. Try limiting portion sizes at mealtime. Over half of American dogs are overweight, and obesity contributes to many diseases and puts more stress on your dog’s joints. Dogs with joint problems may benefit from supplementation with glucosamine or fish oils; there are even special dog foods to improve issues with joint disease or mobility. Dogs with kidney or heart disease may also need special nutrition. Your veterinarian can design a weight plan that addresses your dog’s specific nutritional needs and recommend if supplementation or specialized dog food will help. Come prepared with a list of questions to ask your veterinarian.

For the complete slideshow on how to care for senior pets, visit petMD.