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Elder Pet Care: Expert Tips for Senior Dog Veterinary Care

As your pup reaches their golden years the care they need will need to change as their body and mind do. Here, our Thornton vets discuss the importance of routine senior pet care and provide some tips on how to help your beloved pet live comfortably once they are considered geriatric.

When is your dog officially a senior?

While each dog is different and their anticipated lifespan can vary depending on breed and size, there is a standard age that each size of dog reaches their senior years.

As a general rule, small dogs can be expected to live between 15 and 20 years, while larger dogs typically live from about 12 to 15 years. Usually, smaller dogs enter middle age at around 8 years old, while larger dogs age faster and are considered "older" around the time they turn 6 years old.

So when do we start using the term geriatric for pets? As we stated above, it all depends on the size of your dog. Small breeds are considered senior dogs when they turn 10 to 12 years old. Medium breeds are considered senior dogs when they hit 8 to 9 years old. Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs at around 6 to 7 years old.

Veterinary Care For Senior Dogs

As your beloved furry friend grows older, it's only natural to expect some changes in their appearance, behavior and overall well-being. Some age-related changes, such as a graying muzzle, are simply a part of the aging process and do not require veterinary attention.

Pet owners need to be vigilant and watch for any signs that may indicate a need for a visit to the vet. Some of the most common signs to look out for include:

  • Weight fluctuation (gain or loss)
  • Poor or worsening hearing/vision
  • Sleep abnormalities (sleeping too much/not enough)
  • Mental dullness
  • Dental disease and tooth loss
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Arthritis and joint issues
  • Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function

With age, your furry companion may start showing signs of aging, making it important to schedule routine wellness checks with your veterinarian. Doing so allows your vet to identify and treat any emerging geriatric conditions early on, ensuring your dog's comfort and health.

Regular checkups and blood work are crucial for keeping your senior dog healthy. During these exams, your vet will also evaluate your senior dog's nutrition and mobility and suggest dietary or exercise changes that can improve their well-being. 

Tips for Senior Pet Care


As your furry friend enters their golden years, it's crucial to keep a close eye on their nutritional needs. With age comes a decrease in physical activity, leading to a higher risk of weight gain and potential health problems such as cardiovascular disease and joint pain. 

To ensure that your dog stays healthy and happy, consult with your veterinarian about adjusting their diet. This could involve monitoring their daily calorie intake or switching to a weight-loss formula food.

For senior dogs with specific health concerns, there are prescription diets and supplements available that cater to their needs. Your vet can recommend the best options for your pooch. 

Proper nutrition is not only beneficial for your dog's physical well-being, but it can also support their mental health as they age. Just like humans, dogs can experience cognitive decline, but a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and regular exercise can help keep their minds sharp and alert.

Exercise (Physical & Mental)

As your furry friend grows older, it's crucial to keep both their body and mind active to ensure their overall well-being. A consistent exercise routine can help maintain a healthy weight and strengthen joints. 

However, it's important to be mindful of your dog's capabilities and comfort level during physical activity. Consider shorter, more frequent walks if you notice any changes in their enthusiasm for walks or runs. Any signs of discomfort, such as slowing down or hesitance to walk, could indicate underlying health issues like arthritis or hip dysplasia, so don't hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian for proper treatment.

In addition to physical activity, it's also important to provide mental stimulation for senior dogs. Whether it's through learning new tricks or playing interactive puzzle games, there are plenty of options available to keep your furry friend's mind sharp and engaged. So don't let age hold your dog back, bring out their inner pup and keep them mentally stimulated with fun and engaging activities.

Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable

Aside from ensuring they are receiving adequate veterinary care, nutrition, and physical and mental exercise, there are a few things you can consider doing to help your aging four-legged friend live out their golden years comfortably:

  • Orthopedic dog bed, heated dog bed (or heating pad/mat set to low heat under a blanket in their sleeping area) for dogs with joint pain or stiffness
  • More carpeting around a home with tile, laminate or wood floors can reduce slipping or tripping hazards for your older dog (some dogs also do well with dog socks that have non-slip soles)
  • Pet gates (or baby gates) can be placed at the top or bottom or stairs to prevent tripping or falling hazards
  • Improve accessibility with dog ramps to help your pet go up and down the stairs, on furniture, or into cars; elevating their food and water bowls can also help with neck and back pain 
  • If your dog has vision issues, seeing at night will be harder for them; some nightlights around the home will help them navigate

Elder Pet Care in Thornton

Once your dog is considered geriatric, your veterinarian will be able to provide dietary recommendations, along with comprehensive elder pet care and exams. It's crucial to provide them with the specialized care they need to maintain a high quality of life. Geriatric veterinary care is an essential aspect of your pet's overall health and well-being, and it can help extend their life and keep them healthy. 

At Caring Hands Veterinary Hospital, our veterinarians understand the unique needs of senior pets and are dedicated to providing the best possible care. We believe in the power of preventive care and routine wellness exams to catch and treat emerging health issues before they become more serious.

Learn More about Geriatric Care

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you need to bring your senior dog in for routine veterinary care? Contact our Thornton vets to book an appointment today.

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Caring Hands Veterinary Hospital is always accepting new patients! Our vets are passionate about providing kind and loving veterinary care to Thornton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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