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Caring for a Senior Dog: 7 Healthy Habits

Reviewed by Dr. Celeste Clements, DVM, DACVIM on Sunday, August 16, 2015
Posted August 19, 2015 in Dog Checkups & Preventive Care

The term “senior” has been chosen to describe aging/older pets. The number of years it takes for your dog to be considered “senior” may vary, and one must keep in mind that organ system, species, and breed of dog has an effect; in general a dog’s senior years begin between 6 and 13 years of age. (Find your dog on the age chart.)

The AVMA says that as a result of improved veterinary care and dietary habits, pets are living longer now than they ever have before. That means that dogs can be ‘seniors’ for a significant portion of their lives, leaving their guardians and veterinarians facing a whole new set of age-related conditions. In turn, developing good health habits for seniors is becoming even more important.  

There are a number of things we can do to introduce healthy lifestyle habits to our dogs, and it’s never too late to start taking these steps. Pet health organizations like AAHA and the AVMA have already developed some great healthy guidelines for senior dogs, and I have my own tips to offer.

1. Make sure your dog eats appropriately

This is one very basic healthy habit to develop for the benefit of your dog, and particularly for a senior dog. You can hardly pick up a magazine without seeing an article urging you to live a healthier lifestyle. Sadly, the risks of obesity are too often overlooked in our canine friends. Recent data, available from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, shows almost 53% of dogs as overweight or obese. Obesity decreases a dog's life span, increases his risk for various cancers and metabolic diseases (like diabetes), and causes orthopedic complications—just to name a few of the possible consequences.

Feed your dog a balanced diet containing high quality ingredients in amounts appropriate to maintain a good weight. [Learn more about feeding your senior dog here.]

Woman feeding her dog

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.