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10 Tips To Keep Your Senior Dog Happy and Healthy

Dog sitting in the grass


Our dogs are not only our best friends, they are a vital part of our family. Their happy welcoming bark and excited wagging tail is one of the best things about coming home, but it may have been a decade or more since he first came home as a puppy. Even so, most dog owners (myself included) hate it when someone calls my dog a "senior dog". 

However, as much as we all want to deny it, the time comes when you start to notice that your pup is slowing down. They're still super excited to see you when you come home, and are always eager to go for a walk, even if that walk takes a little longer than before.

Their eye sign may start to get a bit fuzzy, or they've put on a few points and have some more aches and pains, but nothing will change how we feel about them, including our desire for them to be with us for a good many years and that means doing all we can to keep them healthy and in tip top shape.  

At What Age Is a Dog Considered to Be a Senior?

In human terms, "senior citizen" refers to a person aged 65 and older. The truth is that dogs age differently than humans, and it is hard to pinpoint what exactly constitutes a senior dog. Is it five, seven, or more? There are many arguments on both sides of the issue. 

Some vets say that once a dog turns seven, you will start to see significantly more health problems arise. Other veterinarians say that dogs' health begins to decline at a relatively steady rate after they cross the six- or seven-years-old mark, so there is no definitive point where they suddenly become seniors. Generally speaking, as much as we love those gentle giants, the aging process is typically faster inlarger dog breeds than in smaller ones. 

Here is a reasonable estimate that takes into account the differences in breed size: 

  • little dogs are considered senior when they reach the age of 10–12 years, 
  • medium dogs are senior around 8–9 years, and 
  • large dogs are senior when they reach the age of 6-7 years

However, it is not easy to gauge how long a mixed-breed dog will live, and you may not know how old they are if you adopted him from a shelter. Some of these factors make it murky to declare your dog a senior when he reaches the latter quarter of its life expectancy.

Common Health Problems Faced by Senior Dogs

Now even if your dog is getting close to those milestones mentioned above, that does not mean that you need to worry or that they will change over-night. But there are definitely signs, that if you notice them, you should start to pay closer attention to and not just dismiss. 

Signs of aging in dogs can include impairments in vision, hearing, appetite, activity level, skin elasticity, hair growth, immunity, incontinence (or leakage), and mental acuity, as well as the loss of some or all of the following: eyesight, hearing, teeth, organs, muscles, and hair.

The best way to keep your fur baby strong and healthy into his senior years is to be aware and start early, prevention is better than cure.  

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Suffering?

Knowing what symptoms to look for so you catch the problem in its early stages is key to keep your pup living a better quality of life. 

As your dog gets older, keep an eye out for a few telltale signs of suffering and pain, such as:

  • agitation 
  • depression 
  • decreased appetite 
  • growling 
  • an increased heart rate 
  • lethargy (lack of energy)
  • reluctance to walk or socialize 
  • crying out
  • stumbling or legs giving out
  • vertigo or getting confused, and 
  • difficulty breathing
brown dog sitting looking up

10 Ways to Make Your Senior Dog's Life Better

Your senior dog may not be as active or agile as he used to be or may have a different appetite than his younger counterparts, but there are ways you can help him enjoy life more, even with age-related health issues.

Here are 10 tips for helping your senior dog live a better quality of life and keeping him happy.

1. Schedule Regular Veterinary Visits

Caring for your senior dog requires more than just food, water, and a clean place to sleep. Like humans, dogs can develop illnesses and conditions that require veterinary care. Just like us humans, one of the first things that usually develops are joint problems and canine arthritis

However, as each animal is unique, other 'not so typical' issues such as heart problems, thyroid issues or dog kidney and liver damage, may precede the more common joint issues.

Regular veterinary visits are important for senior dogs because they help your veterinarian keep an eye on health issues that may develop over time and catch them before they become serious. Some of these can only be detected with a blood test or thorough checkup.

If you have a senior dog, it is a good idea to schedule regular vet visits every few months, depending on how frequently the veterinarian suggests.

french bulldog with vet

2. Keep Him on a Healthy Weight

As dog's age, their metabolism slows down, and they do not need as many calories as they did when they were younger. If your senior dog is starting to look a little chubby, help him stay at a healthy weight by keeping a careful eye on the number of dog treats your pup gets, and feeding him less than you think he needs.

The best way to determine how much food a dog needs is by checking their weight regularly and adjusting their diet accordingly. This will also enable you to see if any changes in their diet, such as switching from commercial food to raw or homemade, are affecting how much he eats as well as monitoring their activity levels.

No matter their age, exercise (both physical and mental stimulation) is mandatory for a dog's wellbeing. Dog obesity is a very serious issue in the USA given that it increases the risk of many health issues. To help maintain your dog's weight, it is crucial that they get daily exercise (rain or shine). What's important is knowing how much exercise is right for your dog as some dog breeds need more exercise than others and will need more calories to fuel those extra walks or play sessions. 

Monitoring your dog's food consumption and activity levels go hand in hand. For example, if your pup usually eats one cup of dry dog food per day and is now eating two cups but their activity level has not changed, it is time to cut back on their portions until they is back down to one cup per day. If you are unsure how much food and exercise your dog should get, ask your vet for advice.

3. Encourage Your Dog to Keep Moving

As we mentioned above, the best thing you can do for your dog as it ages is to keep them active. Dogs are built to walk, run, play and explore. As they age, however, they may start to slow down or become less active. This can lead to a host of health and behavioral problems.

To help your senior dog stay active, make sure that they get plenty of exercises each day. If it's too cold or rainy to go outside, there are still plenty of ways to exercise your dog at home. You should also change their routine so that they don't get bored by doing the same thing every day. 

If you have been taking your dog on walks at the same time every day, try varying your schedule and taking them out to different places. This will keep them interested in the walks and will also give you the opportunity to explore new places together. 

Another idea is to have different people, or even a dog walker, do some of the walks in order to give your pup some variety and less predictability.

4. Soothe Your Dog's Stiff, Arthritic Joints

Many senior dogs experience stiffness in their joints, causing them discomfort and making them less active than they used to be. Luckily, there are some things you can do to ease your dog's pain. One of these is using a heating pad on sore joints. 

You can make one by placing a towel over a heating pad, then placing it on top of the area that hurts. The heat will help loosen up stiff muscles and joints so your dog can move around more freely. There are also natural anti-inflammatory treatments  that can reduce swelling and joint pain. Other treatments include, aqua therapy, massage and acupuncture. Just be sure you check out the qualifications of administrator.

To help senior dogs suffering from arthritis or other joint issues sleep better and be more comfortable, consider getting an orthopedic dog bed.  Having their own comfortable dog bed really does help many dogs rest easier.

5. Take Time for Grooming

Taking time for grooming is an important aspect of caring for your senior dog. There are several benefits to grooming your dog. First and foremost, it helps to keep their coat clean and healthy. A clean coat is less likely to develop mats and tangles, which can be uncomfortable and even painful for your dog.

Secondly, grooming can help keep your senior dog's skin healthy. Regular brushing can stimulate the production of natural oils, which help to keep the skin moisturized and supple. Grooming can also help identify potential skin issues, such as dryness, irritation, or infections, which can then be promptly treated.

Finally, grooming can be a great opportunity for you and your senior dog to bond. Taking the time to brush and pamper your furry friend can help to strengthen the bond between you and provide a sense of comfort and security for your dog. Not sure how to groom your dog, check out our blog on how to groom your dog at home.

6. Take Extra Precautions in Cold Weather 

If you live in a cold or very damp climate, take extra precautions to protect your senior dog from the elements. He may not have the same reserves as when he was young, so do not let him stay outside when it is too cold or wet — especially if he has arthritis or another joint disease. And keep him inside at night, when temperatures are more likely to drop below freezing.

If you do not have a heated doghouse or some other way to keep him warm and dry during the night, put an old blanket on top of his kennel before bedtime so it will be there for him come morning.

7. Stay on Top of Dental Care

While you may think that your dog has a lot of teeth and chews on the occasional bone, brushing their teeth cannot make much of a difference, but you would be wrong. The truth is that dogs can lose their teeth as they age, just like humans do. This makes it harder for them to chew food properly and makes them more prone to gum disease. 

Even with dental chews and greenies, dogs can still get tartar and plaque on their teeth. Over time, the buildup of bacteria in the mouth not only leads to stinky doggy breath, but can cause periodontal disease as well as other health complications. By brushing your senior dog's teeth daily, and having a good daily oral hygiene routine for your dog you can help them avoid both of these problems and keep their mouth healthy for years to come.

8. Keep Your Dog Social

It is important to keep your dog social to ensure they are well-rounded and able to interact with a variety of people and animals. This can be achieved through regular visits to the park, dog daycare, or even just inviting friends and their dogs over for playdates. Allowing your dog to interact with other dogs helps to improve their social skills and can even prevent aggression towards other animals. It also helps them learn how to play properly and communicate with their canine peers.

You may think that as your dog is not a pup anymore, they don't need this type of socialization, but you'd be wrong. While you probably want to keep your senior dog away from overly excited puppies, it is still important to them to be around other dogs. Older dogs need to be monitored to make sure they don't become too isolated and withdrawn. 

At the same time, too many dogs may and people may overwhelm an older dog and cause them anxiety. It is important to remember to keep your dog on a leash and to monitor their interactions with others to ensure everyone remains safe. While your dog may be very well behaved you can't control other dogs and it is your responsibility to make sure that your pup does not get hurt. 

9. Consider Alternative Therapies for Your Senior Dog

While traditional veterinary medicine can effectively manage age-related issues, it may not address your dog's needs. Consider the following exploring alternative therapies as a way to provide additional support and improve your dog's quality of life:


Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of needles into specific points of the body to stimulate healing. It can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, chronic pain, and digestive issues.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care involves manually adjusting the spine and other joints to improve mobility and alleviate pain. It can be conducive for senior dogs with spinal or joint problems.

Homeopathic Pet Remedies

Homeopathy is a wonderful alternative therapy for dogs suffering a wide range of issues from joint pain, kidney and liver support, skin issues, eye and ear infections, dog thyroid problems, anxiety and much more as homeopathic remedies for dogs can help with both physical as well as emotional problems.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can help to improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and promote relaxation. It can be especially beneficial for senior dogs with arthritis or other chronic pain conditions.

10. Create a Calm Environment to Help with Anxiety

Creating a calm environment for your dog with anxiety can greatly improve their quality of life and reduce their stress levels. Here are some ways you can create a calm space for your furry friend:

First, try to minimize noise and distractions as much as possible. This could mean turning off the TV or radio, closing blinds or curtains to block out external noise, and limiting the number of people in the room.

Next, create a safe space for your dog. This could be a crate or a designated area in your home where they can retreat when they feel overwhelmed. Make sure this space is comfortable, with possibly some toys or chew bones.

Another important aspect of creating a calm environment is to be consistent with your dog's routine and provide them with plenty of love and affection. This can help them feel secure and reduce anxiety.

dog sitting in the park

These tips will help create a calm and relaxing environment for your anxious dog, improving their overall well-being and happiness.

Keep Your Senior Dog Happy and Healthy

Following these basic steps ensures that your senior dog lives the healthiest, happiest life possible. 

We have covered a lot of ground here, but that is because this information is important to both pet owners and veterinary professionals alike. It is incredible how much your senior dog can still contribute to family life, so long as you take the right steps to care for them.

If you are concerned about your dog's health and wondering if he is at risk of arthritis, check out our blogs for more helpful information. Our in-depth guidance and tips have helped many pet owners learn how to take care of their pets. Our experts are standing by to help you with any pet-related concerns at 1-877-961-9161.

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