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GOLDEN YEARS | Supporting Your Senior Companion

Helping Your Companion Age Gracefully

Did you know there is actually no set age at which dogs are characterized as seniors? The start of this life stage varies depending on the size and breed of your companion: ‘senior’ refers to the latter quarter to third of a breed’s expected lifespan. Generally, dogs are considered seniors at around seven years of age. However, small-breed dogs (who tend to have longer lifespans) may not be considered seniors until 10 or 12 years of age, while large-breed dogs may enter their senior years as early as five or six.

No matter the exact age, this stage of life is a special one for our canine companions – we know them well, we love them dearly, and we want to make sure that these golden years are some of their very best. This Resource Hub is designed to provide you with the information you will need to support your senior dog.

Setting Up for Success – One Step at a Time

Consider this your home base for information as your companion enters their senior years. We have created a series of resources designed to provide you with relevant information for each of the different facets of senior and geriatric care. There are resources on everything from changing veterinary care needs to maintaining mobility and cognitive dexterity – we’ve got you covered. Plan to return to this reference guide often over the coming years, as we help you make sure your companion continues to thrive during their senior phase of life.

RESOURCES & REFERENCE MATERIAL

As your companion ages, they will probably benefit from more frequent veterinary exams (such as every six months rather than yearly). These check-ups also might be more in-depth than you are used to, so that your veterinarian can spot early signs of illness or concern.

How Do Regular Checkups Protect Your Senior Dog?

Veterinarians often recommend more frequent health checks for older dogs. Have you ever wondered why this is the case, and how these checkups can help keep your senior doggo happy and healthy? Dr. Petra Warnock explains why she likes to see her older canine patients more often than once a year, and exactly what she looks for during these appointments.

RESOURCES & REFERENCE MATERIAL

As your companion gets older, their metabolism will likely start to slow down at the same time that their activity level decreases (more snoozing, less jumping!). Because of this, the digestibility and calorie count of their food will need to be considered, and they may benefit from supportive supplements. Keeping their weight within healthy parameters is one of the best things you can do to keep them mobile and pain-free for as long as possible – a goal that might take a little more effort than it used to.

Choosing Food For Your Senior Dog

Wondering how to determine when and how your dog’s dietary needs might change? Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine outlines some of the key considerations for senior nutrition and supplements.

Weight Management For Older Dogs

As part of your ageing canine companion’s wellness check, your veterinarian might recommend some weight management. Don’t worry – it’s not as daunting a project as it might seem at first glance, and helping your dog maintain a healthy weight will have enormous benefits in their golden years.

RESOURCES & REFERENCE MATERIAL

Immune systems become less resilient as we age, making healing or fighting disease more challenging. As your dog enters their senior years, you will want to take precautions to prevent injury and catch health concerns as early as possible.

As your dog gets older, it is also important to address signs of discomfort or illness sooner than you may have when they were young. Older dogs have less robust physical reserves and are more prone to having one issue or symptom progress to further complications if left untreated – when in doubt, check in with your veterinarian if you notice any significant changes in their behaviour or physical condition.

RESOURCES & REFERENCE MATERIAL

Keeping older dogs active through safe exercises can help them maintain both strength and mobility. While the type and duration of their exercise might need to change as they age, there’s still plenty of fun and adventures that you and your dog can have together.

Safe and Effective Walks for Senior Dogs

As your companion gets older, you may notice that they are no longer as eager for the long, high-energy outdoor adventures they may have enjoyed when they were younger. However, this doesn’t mean they are destined for days on the couch – far from it, in fact! Making some slight modifications to your outdoor excursions can help your dog stay fit and maintain mobility and healthy muscle long into their senior years.

Spotting Subtle Mobility Issues

You might notice your older dog no longer seems as sprightly and agile as they were in their younger days. While some of this may be the result of a mature outlook, this slower pace is more often the beginning indication of discomfort or inflamed muscles and joints. The good news is that there is plenty that can be done for your companion to help them maintain as much mobility as possible and minimize their discomfort as they age – particularly when action is taken to support them as soon as you notice issues arise.

RESOURCES & REFERENCE MATERIAL

Stimulation and novelty help keep older pets mentally active and engaged! While puppyhood is certainly in the rearview mirror at this point in your dog’s life, it doesn’t mean that they have outgrown puzzles, play, and new discoveries. Offering them ways to keep learning and having fun will keep your senior canine feeling happy and young at heart.

Enrichment Feeder Fun

Enrichment feeders are tools and toys that create a more engaging and interactive experience for your dog while they consume their meal or extra treats. Mealtime is often a highlight of the day for our canine friends, so why not make the most of it for them?

Boredom Busters

This list of easy boredom busters for senior canines is designed to give you some ideas and inspiration to encourage your older dog to keep using their noggin! Even if your dog is not as active as they once were, these activities can bring some play and new experiences into their day.

RESOURCES & REFERENCE MATERIAL

Small adjustments to your dog’s lifestyle – how the indoor spaces they use are set up, where they spend the majority of their time, how long they play or exercise for at a time, and what support options you can offer – are all part of the aging process. Paying attention to the ways you can make life a little easier for your dog can help them stay safe and comfortable.

Aging Gracefully – Supporting Your Senior Canine

Many elements that we often think of as inevitable aspects of getting older – decreased energy levels, stiffness and reluctance to move, general grumpiness – are in fact signs and symptoms of discomfort. This discomfort is neither necessary nor inevitable, and there are many steps we can take to help our companions age as gracefully as possible. As we veterinarians say, ‘age itself is not a disease.’ Senior dogs can continue to be active, healthy, joyful, and pain-free. By supporting our dogs well as they age, we can help keep this lifestyle a reality.

Home Modifications for Senior Dogs

The key to ensuring your dog ages as gracefully as possible is to help them continue with their former lifestyle as much as possible, while introducing some strategic modifications to keep them safe and strong.

We particularly want to avoid situations that encourage explosive jumping, slipping due to poor footing, and overexertion. Along with exercise modifications, there are also some adaptations you can make to their home environment to increase their safety and comfort.

Help ‘Em Up Harness

The Help ‘Em Up® Harness is designed to lift your dog from below (beneath the chest and pelvis), distributing their weight over the padded surfaces. The ‘Hip Lift’ at the back allows you to lift the complete pelvic floor while supporting the spine – this reduces strain on joints, ligaments, and arteries that can occur when pulling or lifting from the legs. The purpose of the harness is to provide extra stabilization and support for your dog – while still allowing them to be as active as they are able, this device can add an extra boost to their mobility.