Senior dogs can require more care eventually, but it's common to have some healthy time as they age. Here's a few things to look for that are normal, or signs to see a vet. Yearly vet exams are recommended for dogs of all ages.
Like us, the senses can decline with age. Older dogs might not see, hear, or smell like they used to. Respond to these changes with compassion. Gently touch a dog that's having a hard time hearing you calling them, or make sure you can see each other. (Don't get frustrated and punish hearing loss.) Ask your vet or dog trainer about how you can adapt so that your relationship with your dog stays enjoyable for both of you.
What to Report to the Vet
The biggest change to get checked out is sudden appetite and weight changes. These can be a marker for diseases like cancer or hormone problems.
Cognitive changes should always be assessed, but some dementia symptoms can come with age in dogs. They might act anxious, confused, or aggressive. Again, vets and trainers can help you care for them.
Diet and Lifestyle
Food labeled for senior dogs should provide appropriate nutrition. Some food is also available with additions such as glucosamine for joint health. If your dog has some minor issues as they begin aging, starting with nutritional support can help keep common conditions at bay for longer, or help with easing some symptoms. Glucosamine for example, has been widely studied in humans and shown to reduce pain and progression of osteoarthritis. Many vets like it for animal use too.
Exercise is still important for your older dogs, but they may be more stubborn if they're in pain. Try to encourage gentle exercise like walking. Movement is good for easing the pain and advancement of arthritis.
If you have loved your dog for a long time, most aging is manageable. If you have the heart for it, adopt a senior dog.
About the Author: Kat Powers holds a MSOM from NUNM in Portland OR, and enjoys supporting and educating people about natural health topics for themselves and their pets.