An aging doggie may have many of the same issues as elderly humans, but when it comes to your pet, some aspects of care are a different animal (see what I did there?? LOL) in part because, well, your pooch cannot talk.

The first fact to recognize is that canines age more quickly than people and can be considered to have reached their senior years even as ‘young’ as age 6-10. Interestingly, the lifespan of dogs can differ depending on the breed and size—typically, the bigger the dog, the shorter its lifespan.

The good news is that because of veterinary and dietary advances, pooches now live longer than ever before. With progress has come increased attention to the problems aging doggies encounter and, therefore, how their owners can best care for them and help them remain safe and comfortable.

Note to Yourself: Always Seek Professional Advice The first rule of thumb when questioning changes in your older pooch’s behavior is to consult the advice of a veterinarian. Vet visits should be amped up to 2x/year vs. the regular yearly exam and include necessary vaccinations. And, remember, any tips and suggestions we make on Pups Blog should NEVER take the place of that 😉

Senior Moments…Why is My Dog Behaving Like That? If you begin to see deficits or other atypical behaviors and suspect he is entering his golden years, here are some red flags that may indicate that the latter is the case: cognitive dysfunction (including disorientation/confusion); loss of attention; nervousness/anxiety; repetitive activity; retreat from interaction; diminished ‘potty training;’ increased startle response; wandering; shifts in eating and sleep habits; and fatigue/weakness.

On the Lookout – Older Dogs Suffer More Maladies Senior pets are particularly prone to developing such ailments as senility, as well as joint/bone, liver, dental, heart, kidney, gastrointestinal and urinary tract disease, cancer, diabetes, and poor vision/hearing.

Spotlight On Vigilance When your pup is no longer a puppy, there are aspects of his life that you should begin to look at even more vigilantly than you did before: diet /nutrition, weight control, tick/flea and other parasite control, mobility, environmental conditions, and, believe it or not, mental health.

Creature Comfort Here are some steps you can take to help ensure your elderly pooch is comfortable and maintains a good quality of life. (As above, many of these can be further explored during a conversation with a good vet:)

• Seek out healthy, quality foods for optimal nutrition. (Perhaps even research appropriate vitamins and supplements—again, ask the veterinarian.)
• Make sure your dog is exercised even though he requires a bit less in the way of activity than before (and even if you have to help him along the way and monitor him more).
• Maintain proper dental care.
• Keep him protected from extreme environments.
• Control parasite exposure as best possible (since older dogs are more prone to immune system decline and so might not have defense against illness, nor adequate healing abilities).

Of course, you can do all of the above for your aging doggie, but don’t forget, as well, what a long way a lot of LOVE can go. Lay on the TLC with your senior pooch — PET, TICKLE, CUDDLE and APPRECIATE HIM throughout his senior years as much as humanly possible. Have patience with him as you both navigate this new territory together.