Caring for Your Senior Dog

Understanding health challenges and behavioral changes of an elderly dog

Senior Pet Care

Man and woman’s best friend is living longer than ever before, thanks to veterinary care and dietary habits. As dogs’ lifespan continues to increase, so too does the occurrence for age-related behaviors and health conditions. It is important to be aware of the changes that may occur. Let’s review common FAQs senior dog caregivers, like you, may have on their minds.

When is my young-at-heart pup considered a geriatric dog?

The answer to this question depends on your dog’s size. Smaller dogs (fewer than 20 pounds) are considered seniors at the age of 7, and larger-breed dogs (51 to 90 pounds) are considered an elderly dog at 6 years old.

How old is my dog in human years?

The answer to this question all depends on your dog’s size. Look to the chart below sourced from, and featured on, The current world record holder for world's oldest dog goes to an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey, who lived to be 29 years and five months of age, from years 1910 to 1939.

Dog years Human years (dog size)
7 44 to 47 (small to medium) / 50 to 56 (large to very large)
10 <56 to 60 (small to medium) / 66 to 78 (large to very large)
15 76 to 83 (small to medium) / 93 to 115 (large to very large)
20 96 to 105 (small to medium) / 120 (large)

Small-size dog: 0-20 lbs.; Medium-size dog: 21-50 lbs.; Large-size dog: 51-90 lbs.; Very large-size dog: >90 lbs.

Why is my older dog acting strange?

A senior dog can experience changes in behavior that you may not have witnessed before. Rather than discipline them for this new, poor behavior, be a listening ear. You know your pet better than anyone, and as their voice, it is important for you to acknowledge these changes and share them with your veterinarian. These strange behaviors could point to discomfort, or they could be early warning signs of disease.

Keep watch for possible behavioral changes in your geriatric dog, such as:

  • Whining for no apparent reason
  • Increased vocalization and reaction to sounds
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety in older dogs
  • Soiling in the house
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Wandering and repetitive actions
  • Decreased human interaction
  • Aggression in older dogs

  • What are symptoms that could point to health challenges?

    It is crucial that you share any of these symptoms with your veterinarian, as some of them could be far more critical. Such as in the case of a pet demonstrating bloody urine, which could be a urinary tract infection or something far more severe, such as poisoning or kidney disease. Be on the lookout for opportunities to be your pet’s voice, and always share any findings with your veterinarian.

    Arthritis Urinary tract infections Diabetes Cancer Kidney disease
    Difficulty standing/sitting Bloody or cloudy urine Increased hunger/weight loss Difficulty breathing Increased level of thirst
    Weight gain Increased urination Depression/lethargic behavior Difficulty eating and sudden changes in weight Poor hair coat
    Favoring limbs Accidents in the house Decreased muscle mass/ increased level of weakness Bleeding from the mouth or nose Decreased appetite
    Decreased activity or playtime Straining during urination Excessive drinking and urination Abdominal swelling Decreased or no urination
    Increased irritability Fever Vomiting Mass or tumors Vomiting

    How can I help manage my elderly dog through his golden years?

    By working closely with your veterinarian, you can help ensure your dog’s health and comfort. Look to veterinarian-founded and veterinarian-owned Valley Vet Supply for a range of products available to improve comfort and help manage age-related health conditions.

    For improved comfort that relieves tired, achy joints, you can consider an orthopedic pet bed. For pets with increased levels of anxiety, which is a common result with age, you can find proven calming agents to help settle his nerves.  There are also prescription medications available to offer reprieve and treatment for aging pets, including managing arthritis, pain and inflammation and conditions such as diabetes.

    In conclusion, an important reminder for pet caregivers: Unless prescribed by your veterinarian, do not give your pet medications for humans, as some human products, including over-the-counter medications, can be fatal for pets. Consult with your veterinarian to uncover treatment options and comfort solutions for your pet’s well-being. Find additional resources available from the American Veterinary Medical Association to help you navigate through your furry best friend’s golden years and offer your senior dog the very best in care.

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