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Please ensure that your pet is either in a travel crate or on a leash before bringing them to their appointment.

How to Take Care of a Senior Dog: Tips & Advice

It's essential to care for your aging pet by understanding their changing healthcare needs. At North Madison Animal Hospital, our veterinarians offer valuable insights into the experience of having an older dog and ways to support their health and happiness during their golden years.

Senior Dogs & Elder Pet Care

While many people believe that one human year equates to seven dog years, the aging process in dogs is more complex than this calculation suggests. Various factors, including breed and size, influence how dogs age.

Smaller dog breeds typically age more slowly than larger breeds. Generally, small breeds are considered seniors at around 10 to 12 years, medium breeds at 8 to 9 years, and large and giant breeds at 6 to 7 years.

These guidelines provide a useful framework for understanding your furry friend's aging process.

Veterinary Care For Senior Dogs

As your furry companion ages, you may notice changes in their appearance, behavior, and overall health. While some changes, like a gray muzzle, are normal and don't require vet visits, it's crucial to watch for signs indicating a need for medical attention. Common signs include changes in behavior, appetite, water intake, mobility, and energy levels.

  • 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

As your dog ages, they may develop conditions requiring special attention. Regular wellness checks with your vet are vital to identify and treat emerging geriatric conditions early. During these checkups, your vet will assess your senior dog's nutrition and mobility and recommend dietary or exercise adjustments to improve their well-being. To maintain your senior dog's health, schedule regular checkups and blood work.

Caring For Your Senior Dog


As dogs age, it's crucial to monitor their nutritional needs closely. With decreased activity, seniors are at risk of weight gain and health issues like joint pain and cardiovascular disease. Consult your vet about modifying their diet, which may involve calorie tracking or switching to weight-loss formula food. For specific health concerns, prescription diets and supplements are available. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and regular exercise can support mental sharpness and alertness.

Exercise (Physical & Mental)

Prioritize both physical and mental activity for your aging dog's overall well-being. A consistent exercise routine helps maintain a healthy weight and strengthen joints. Be mindful of their comfort and capabilities during physical activity. Consider shorter but more frequent walks if their enthusiasm wanes. Mental stimulation, such as teaching new tricks or playing interactive games, keeps their minds sharp.

Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable

In addition to veterinary care, nutrition, and exercise, consider adjustments to enhance your aging pet's comfort:

  • 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

Geriatric Veterinary care in Jackson

As pets age, specialized care becomes crucial for maintaining their health and well-being. Geriatric veterinary care focuses on extending their life and keeping them healthy. At North Madison Animal Hospital, our veterinarians understand senior pets' unique needs and prioritize preventive care through routine wellness exams.

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.

As your pet ages, their care needs increase. At North Madison Animal Hospital, we prioritize your pet's health. Schedule a wellness exam today to ensure their happiness and health. Contact us to book an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

North Madison Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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Book Online (731) 664-6200