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Dogs of most breeds are considered seniors when they reach 6 to 7 years old. Regular annual health exams are important at any age, however senior dogs may require more frequent examinations with your veterinarian.

Often times the term old age is given to dogs that are aging and showing changes in behavior and appearance. Because of the potentially serious health problems that may be grouped into old age, it's much better to err on the side of caution and have anything new or unusual observed in your dog evaluated as soon as possible by your veterinarian.

What to look for in the aging dog

The following is short list of symptoms that would warrant seeking advice from your veterinarian:

  • Sudden blindness
  • Head tilt/seizure
  • Change in weight or appetite
  • Pain or stiffness/lameness
  • Change in water consumption or urination output
  • Hair loss/itchy red skin
  • Unusual behavior
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Bad odor in mouth/drooling
  • Coughing/gagging
  • Excessive panting
  • Sudden collapse or bouts of weakness

What to do to keep your dog comfortable

  • Groom coat and trim nails on a regular basis.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water and monitor consumption and urination habits.
  • Provide regular diet and prevent other pets from interfering with eating the senior pet's food. Sometimes it is helpful to feed an older dog on a non-slip surface to prevent paws from slipping.
  • Provide a comfortable, clean, dry bed in a warm area in the house.
  • Weigh your dog and make note of any significant gain or loss.
  • Provide mild to moderate low-impact exercise on a regular basis. Expect that your older dog may not want to run and fetch like a 2-year-old. However, regular exercise will keep joints and muscles stronger.