Caring for Your Senior Dog

Find out how to help keep your dog happy & healthy in their senior years.

Generally, dogs are considered senior once they have reached the final third of their anticipated lifespan. It is fair to say that large breed dogs age more quickly and their life spans are shorter than small breed dogs. For example, a six year old Great Dane may be considered senior, while a Maltese Terrier may be considered senior once it reaches 8-10 years of age. 

Old age may unfortunately be accompanied by health problems, such as chronic kidney failure, arthritis or heart disease. There is also a tendency towards obesity in older dogs and dental health is sometimes neglected. Good nutrition and regular veterinary attention can help prevent and manage these problems.

Ageing dogs exhibit a decline in energy and generally sleep more, prefer short walks and are often less active.


Memory Loss & Altered Temperament: 

As dogs age, they begin to experience memory loss and an altered temperament.   Some examples of this may be: 

  • House-soiling accidents
  • Doesn't greet family members
  • Does not want attention/petting
  • Does not recognize familiar people or places
  • Does not respond to verbal cues
  • Sleeps more during the day or less at night
  • Appears lost or confused in the house or yard
  • Wanders or paces
  • Stares into space or at walls

To keep your dog acting young and healthy, proper nutrition is important. As your pet ages, continue to feed them foods rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients to keep them active and alert. Enhanced levels of dietary nutrients such as the omega 3 fatty acid may help improve cognitive function in senior dogs.  


Oral Health 

Oral health issues can lead to chronic pain, reduced food intake, tooth loss and systemic disease if not addressed properly in senior dogs.  

Proper dental and oral health care is vital for senior dogs. Regular veterinary inspection is very imporant to ensure that there are no hidden issues that could cause problems.   The right diet can help promote dental health through kibble size and shape and the addition of active ingredients such as Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP) to help reduce tartar buildup.   


Arthritis & Joint Issues

Abnormal changes in a joint are generally referred to as arthritis. These changes occur when cartilage is worn away faster than it can be replaced. Cartilage acts as a cushion to protect the bones. When it wears away, joints become swollen and painful.   Arthritis can occur for a number of reasons including weight gain (putting extra pressure on joints), previous accident or trauma,  breed (larger breeds can be more prone to arthritis than others), and sometimes infection can cause cartilage and joint tissue to degenerate.  

Nutrients to support joint health may be beneficial for older dogs such as chondroitin, glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids.   High levels of essential amino acids can help for building muscle protein.  A number of science based dog foods contain such ingredients to support joint health and assist with mobility.     



Older dogs are less active, have less energy, and require fewer calories, which is why nutrition formulated for their age is vital to their overall health and weight.   

Being as little as 20% overweight can have a huge impact on your dogs chances of developing serious health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, urinary stones or heart disease.   

Plus excess weight can not only have a negative impact on your dog's general wellbeing and quality of life, but also significantly shorten their life expectancy.   

It is important to choose a dog food that will provide a balanced diet for the age of your pet, and help you maintain a healthy weight.  


Senior Dog Care

Good nutrition and regular veterinary attention can help slow or prevent the progression of changes associated with ageing and maintain a good quality of life for senior dogs.

The following are some practical tips to assist with care of a senior dog:

• Ensure regular veterinary check-ups take place, at least twice yearly

• Offer a diet that is based on the individual pet’s requirements (ie. oral, joint, weight issues) 

• For healthy senior dogs, choose an appropriate senior dog diet that contains highly digestible and high quality protein as well as other supportive nutrients

• Monitor body condition and regularly perform body condition assessments

• Feed to maintain an ideal body condition

• Provide regular exercise and play sessions at a level appropriate for the individual dog

• Ensure teeth and gums are inspected regularly and an oral health care plan is followed

• Always ensure free access to a supply of clean, fresh drinking water