“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.”  

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Monti, 15 years old

Paws-itive Press

“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.”  

Sydney Jeanne Seward

We all feel attracted by puppies, but an older dog has nobleness, memories shared and unconditional love.

 Your dog’s health is not entirely in your control, but you can have a real impact on his attitude. Your dog doesn’t realize that he’s getting older. His gray hairs don’t cause concern and he doesn’t worry about the other visible effects of time, the thickening of his body, the thinning of his limbs. He doesn’t count the number of times he can fetch a ball before tiring and compare that to his performance when he was a young dog in his prime. He isn’t worried about his hairline.

Having an older dog can be a special time one for both of you, and it’s up to you to make the most of it.

A dog is considered senior or geriatric around the age of seven, however, this varies for each dog. The typical lifespan of a dog is said to be 12-15 years. Smaller dog breeds tend to live longer on average while large and giant dog breeds have shorter lifespans. Therefore, a small dog is considered a senior at an older age, such as age 8-10. In turn, a large breed dog may be considered a senior by age 5-6. Some dogs may appear to age faster than others; this may be due to genetic background and overall health.

Geriatric pets can develop many of the same problems seen in older people, one of the most common signs owners report is an overall “slowing down.” Sometimes, owners see that their dogs are confused, disoriented or less responsive than they were in their youth.

As a dog ages, signs of potentially serious health problems are commonly overlooked by pet owners as “normal for an old dog.” Some changes are to be expected with old age, some are not.

Learn to watch for, and differentiate between, normal and possible medical problems for your senior dog. It is much better to err on the side of caution and have anything new or unusual in your dog checked out as soon as possible by your veterinarian.

The most common health issues in senior pets are arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, deafness, blindness, dementia, cancer, incontinence, and obesity.

Recommendations for older pets:

1.Geriatric pets should have semi-annual veterinary visits instead of annual visits, so signs of illness or other problems can be detected early and treated. Senior pet exams are similar to those for younger pets, but are more in depth, and may include dental care, possible blood work, and specific checks for physical signs of diseases that are more likely in older pets.

2.Geriatric pets often need special diets and foods that are more readily digested and have different calorie levels, supplements, and anti-aging nutrients.

  1. As with older people, keeping older pets mobile through appropriate exercise helps keep them healthier and more mobile.
  2. Your pet’s vaccination needs may change with age. Talk to your veterinarian about a vaccination program for your geriatric pet.
  3. Pets can show signs of senility. Stimulating them through interactions can help keep them mentally active. If any changes in your pet’s behavior are noticed, please consult your veterinarian.
  4. Older pets may need changes in their lifestyle, such as sleeping areas to avoid stairs, more time indoors, softer beds etc. Disabled pets have special needs which can be discussed with your veterinarian.

You and your veterinarian should always work as a team, to determine if your aging pet is still enjoying life by using a “Quality of Life” scale to determine if your pets basic needs are being met.

Enjoy and love your older pet. Raising a pet like a rainbow…. Young ones are the joy at one end, while old ones are the treasure at the other.

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Cristina Anzures is the co-owner of Anzer Animal Hospital. She lives in Wellington with her husband and 2 kids. She is passionate about regulatory medicine and well being of all animals. She also works for the Florida Dept. of Agriculture.

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