As your dog ages, its needs change. Be prepared to serve your dog’s evolving needs as it ages with these tips on caring for a mature dog.
Dog Life Stages
Your dog transitions through four life stages:
- Young adult
- Mature adult
Your dog is a puppy for the first year of life and becomes a senior at the age of seven. The years in between are the adult years. Your dog slowly transitions from a young adult to a mature adult dog closer to seven years old.
If you have questions, talk to your veterinarian about the point at which your dog transitions away from youth and is considered a mature adult. This helps you create a personalized care plan based on your dog’s age and overall health.
Annual Veterinary Checkups
Your dog should see the veterinarian at least once per year, if not twice per year as it ages. Your dog may seem healthy, but preventative care helps to identify potential concerns before they become major problems. Each annual exam should include a complete physical exam to assess:
- Body temperature
- Overall condition of skin, fur, muscles, eyes, and ears
- Heart and lung function
- Dental health
Physical activity is more important than ever as your dog ages. It still looks forward to running, playing, and exploring. Dedicate time each day to taking your dog for a walk or playing outside with toys. If you don’t have a yard big enough for your dog to run in, check your area for nearby dog parks.
If you work full-time and have a long commute that keeps you away from your dog for long hours during the week, consider dog-walking services. There may be a dog daycare you can take your pup to, or someone who can come to your house midafternoon and let your dog out.
Mature dog mental health is just as important as physical health. You can make sure your dog stays sharp mentally by talking, playing, and ensuring a variety of activities are available. Consider treat toys that make your dog work for their treats by figuring out a puzzle. Rotate toys, so there’s always something “new” to play with.
Changes in Behavior
As dogs age, their behavior changes – sometimes for the worse. Your dog may be less tolerant of children and other animals. It may seem grumpy or less engaged than usual. Talk to your veterinarian about any behavioral concerns, even if you’re between annual checkups. Changes in behavior may point to a health concern that you can address to help your dog feel happier and more relaxed.
As your dog ages, it's more likely to gain weight. Obesity in mature dogs is a major concern. Dogs often gain weight gradually because, over time, it's easy to stop measuring how much you feed your dog or to offer more treats. More than half of all dogs suffer from health conditions related to obesity. The ideal weight for each dog breed is different, so talk to your veterinarian to see how much your dog should weigh.
You can help your dog live a long, healthy life by ensuring it maintains an appropriate weight. You may need to change the brand or type of dog food your dog eats to help prevent weight gain as it ages. If your dog has a medical condition, your veterinarian takes that into consideration when making nutrition recommendations. Sometimes you can avoid giving medication by offering your dog the right balance of nutrition for their medical condition.
Fleas, ticks, and heartworms are the three most common parasites posing a threat to your dog’s health. It’s also possible for your dog to develop intestinal parasites that result in worms in your dog’s feces. By staying up-to-date on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medication, you can avoid parasite-related health concerns.
Parasite prevention medication may come in the form of a pill or topical application. You usually offer it monthly, so set a reminder on your calendar. Allowing too much time between dosages gives parasites the opportunity to begin an infestation.
Some dog vaccines are required by law, while others are optional. When you vaccinate your pet, you protect it from preventable health conditions and infections. Your mature adult dog needs vaccinations as much now as it did as a puppy. While you may choose to decline the optional vaccines, those required by law need to be maintained on the recommended schedule.
Even if you’re new to dental care for dogs, it’s never too late to start. Just like humans, dogs can develop periodontal disease. Brush your dog’s teeth at home and ask your veterinarian about professional cleanings if needed. When left untreated, mature dog dental disease may lead to:
- Inability to eat
- Liver problems
- Decreased appetite