What is the most important thing to know about caring for a senior dog?

The most important thing that we have to remember is that, just like with people, there will be changes that take place as they age. They're not always going to continue being the happy, active dog they were when they were younger.

Dr. Ryan Southard
Family Pet Veterinary Center

What is the life expectancy of a dog?

Life expectancy varies a lot with breeds and with their body types. Smaller dogs tend to live longer, often in the 14 to 16-year range for little toy poodles and chihuahuas. For larger breeds, the life expectancy tends to decrease. We sometimes see giant breeds like Great Danes and St. Bernards' life expectancy only being seven to 10 years.

How does getting older impact the health of my dog?

Getting older means that they often have the same type of issues that people might have as they get older. We often see changes in comfort levels, and that's often associated with arthritic problems. We can see age-related issues affecting the organs, like the kidneys and the liver, and we can also see more diseases like cancer as they age.

How can wellness care extend the life and vitality of my dog?

Wellness care gets to be a lot more important as they get older because we're starting to see more of those changes. We're really trying to recognize those things during exams and with diagnostics to make sure we can keep their quality of life well while they get older and keep them comfortable.

Does my dog still need regular wellness exams as they get older?

Yes. Again, because we see more of those problems as they age, wellness exams become more important and more frequent as they age. As dogs age, they should always get examined at least twice a year, ideally every six months or even more frequently, depending on their conditions.

What are some of the signs and symptoms that my dog may be slowing down?

The most common thing you'll recognize at home with dogs that are slowing down is that they're no longer as active. They may not get up and move as quickly. You might notice less jumping. In general, they're slower than they used to be when they were younger.

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing if my dog is slowing down or whether they're actually sick?

Slowing down can be normal, but a lot of the time, there are underlying causes. Sone of the more common things would be arthritis or pain. We need to be able to identify those kinds of things so we can treat those conditions, which often improve their mobility and activity level as they age.

What will my veterinarian be looking for when examining my senior dog?

When we examine dogs at any age, we're always trying to do a thorough exam, but for older dogs, we're often paying more attention to those things that we would expect as they age. We're often trying to check the range of emotion and their joints, ensuring that they can extend their joints well and checking their comfort levels. We often see back-related issues, so we often check for back pain. If we find that we see that on examinations, it's more important that we start addressing pain management. We're also looking for other age-related issues, such as dental problems, vision issues, and symptoms that might be associated with hypothyroidism, which we see more commonly in dogs as they age. There are a lot of different things we examine as they age to make sure we maintain their quality of life.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (515) 224-9747, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.