How to Care for Your Senior Dog

Redbarn Team January 26, 2023
How to Care for Your Senior Dog

While being 7-years-old may be young for humans, for dogs it's the start of their senior years. They may not have as much energy as they did in their puppyhood, their appetite might change, and their bodies will start to slow down. As your dog ages, it's important to adjust to their new lifestyle, even if it means changing your own. Our senior dogs have been with us through thick and thin, and now is the time to show them more appreciation than ever. 

Here is a chart from the American Veterinary Medical Association to help determine your dog's age in human years:

 American Veterinary Medical Association Chart of dog's ages in human years

1. They Still Need Exercise, Just Not As Much

When your dog was 6-months-old they may have been able to play all day, but now that they are older, their playtime may be replaced with nap time. While it's important that your dog still gets daily exercise, you need to pay attention to how much exercise their body is able to take. Keep your daily walks closer to home in case you need to get back quickly and let your dog rest when they need it.

One in five dogs will develop canine arthritis and it's important for you to know the signs:

  • Difficulty or reluctance to stand from a lying position
  • Difficulty going up stairs or jumping onto a bed or couch
  • Taking a narrow stance in the rear limbs
  • Wasting away of muscles in the rear limbs

If you think your dog may be developing canine arthritis, speak to your vet about supplements your dog can start taking to help relieve symptoms.

2. Give Them Softer Chews

Just like human teeth, dogs' teeth will age and could become weaker as they get older. It's important that you keep track of your dog's dental health, and be mindful of the treats you give them. Bones and even Bully Sticks could likely become too hard for them to chew on, and could potentially damage their teeth. 

We highly recommend our Esophagus Chews, especially our Puff Braids, for your senior dog. Puff Braids are soft and crunchy, perfect for puppies and senior dogs with sensitive teeth. Our Esophagus Chews are softer than Bully Sticks, all-natural, and 100% digestible. Shop our Senior Dog Collection for food and treats to fit their lifestyle! 

Dog sniffing Redbarn Puff Braid

3. Adjust Their Diet

"Obesity in senior pets is linked to an increased risk of arthritis, difficulty breathing, insulin resistance or diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, skin problems, cancer, and other conditions," reports the American Veterinary Medical Association. It's important that your dog maintains a healthy diet as they age to decrease their chances of obesity-related health risks.

With more sensitive teeth and stomachs, your dog's diet is bound to change as they get older. Most parents are finding that adding a little bit of water to their dog's kibble makes it easier on their teeth, just be sure it doesn't sit and retain too much moisture and spoil. 

If your dog's teeth are extra sensitive, or some have fallen out, it may be time to switch your dog to soft or wet food completely. Our Redbarn Rolled Food is a soft, semi-most food that is perfect for sensitive eaters, and our Air Dried Food is packed with protein and still has a good crunch without being too hard. Combine the two for a flavorful meal for your dog! 

4. Visit Your Veterinarian Regularly

Most pet parents visit their veterinarian once a year for a physical, blood work, and basic check-up, but as your dog enters their senior years, it's recommended that you visit your vet more often. "A senior dog with no pre-existing health conditions should visit the vet every 6 months for routine check-ups and geriatric screenings," says

Here are some symptoms to keep an eye on:

  • Changes in your dog's weight. 
  • Pain and discomfort.
  • Sudden change in your dog's energy/personality.
  • Increase in urination and bowel movements/diarrhea.

Speak to your vet about any medications or daily vitamins your dog can safely as they get older. 

Dog being checked by veterinarian

5. Keep Them Comfy

The cold weather can be uncomfortable for your senior dog, but there are several ways you can make them feel more relaxed. It may be time to upgrade their dog bed to an Orthopedic Dog Bed, one that gives them more support and relief from achy joints. You can even purchase a heated dog bed for those winter months! Many pet parents also put their senior dogs in doggie sweaters to provide extra warmth when they aren't laying in their (or your) bed.

6. Be Patient and Understanding

Dogs who reach the double digits may start to have accidents in the house through no fault of their own. If your dog is experiencing messy accidents, speak to your vet to make sure it's nothing serious, and then bust out those puppy pads! For extreme cases, you may want to look into getting disposable doggie diapers. We know it can be stressful, but our dogs are worth it.

7. Give Them Lots of Love! 

The time we have with our pets is never enough, which makes every moment we have with them truly special. Our lives can get busy, but always remember to take some time to spoil your dog with the love and affection they deserve, and cherish every happy memory you have with them. 

Senior German Shepherd laying in a grassy field