Friday, September 25, 2009


Unfortunately the larger breeds of dogs do not live as long as the little guys do. By the time a German Shepherd reaches the age of 7, he is considered a “young” senior (middle to senior aged). Normally the average life span of a German Shepherd is 9 – 14 years old. This is never a long enough time with our beloved dogs. However some dogs at this age, act and look like they’re three years old. Look at the beautiful Am & Can Select Ch Darby Dan’s Eve ROM who at the “tender young age” of ten just went Canadian Select last week!

Some of the things you might notice when a dog is aging are graying around the face and muzzle, slowing down, arthritis, harder time getting up and down stairs or rising after he’s been lying down, reduced hearing, cloudy or bluish eyes, and muscle atrophy.

Some dogs remain healthy and well throughout their lives. Others may develop health problems as they age. Some of the potential problems some seniors may have are: arthritis pain which should be treated with a medicine that will relieve some of his pain and discomfort. Some supplements have been known to help the senior dog with his aches and pains as well. Consider given him glucosamine/chondroitin for his joints. Vibrant Pets makes a product with these ingredients called Joint and Muscle. Bad breathe and bleeding gums can occur at this age because of built up tartar leading to gum diseases and tooth loss. Kidney disease, oral cancer and infections all can lead to bad breathe as well. Hearing loss, sudden blindness or tilting of the head can be caused by infection or age related cancer. Some dogs may develop cataracts in a matter of days with sudden onset diabetes. Look for change in weight or appetite…losing weight or gaining too much weight. A senior dog should be fed a diet that is age appropriate. Sometimes they may need a prescription diet from your vet. You might see the aged dog change in his water consumption and urine output. Suddenly drinking too much water can mean kidney problems or diabetes. Some dogs may experience cognitive dysfunction like dementia. Coughing and excessive panting may indicate heart disease. Itchy, flaky skin also can be caused by the dog aging.

Special care should be given to make your older dogs life as comfortable and as easy as possible. Always make sure he has a comfortable bed to lie in because of his aching joints. There are actually orthopedic beds for dogs. Provide fresh clean water and an age appropriate diet. You might notice the “oldster” doesn’t want to run and play as much. That’s alright. Just give him some toys to play with so he doesn’t feel too neglected. Provide him with adequate exercise which is appropriate for his capabilities. This is good for his heart. Just don’t overdo it. Also because the older dog may be going through some loss of hearing, he might startle easily and things that never bothered him before may now become something that he’s uncomfortable with. All of a sudden children or loud noises may frighten him. A dog that is suffering from arthritis may be fearful that a child is going to step on him. They can’t get out of the way fast enough. Be aware of this so accidents don’t happen. Separation anxiety is another problem you may see with the older dog. He may bark more, be more destructive or start to eliminate in the house when left alone. He may become confused or disoriented. Thunderstorms may make him tremble. Make sure your senior dog is given as much attention as possible. You may find he wants to be with you even more. He might look for more physical contact and attention as he ages. Reassuring him that he’s still a very important part of your household makes for a very happy senior citizen!

Keep up his grooming routine. This is a good time to check your dog for tumors or other growths and it’s another reason for touching and stroking the dog.

With the senior dog, you may find that you are making a lot more trips to the vet. Any changes that are making the dog uncomfortable should be an indication that it’s time for your dog to see his doctor. He has special needs at this time in his life and they should be attended to to insure his healthy and long life.

There is nothing more precious than the senior dogs face. Looking into his warm brown eyes is like looking right into the soul of this marvelous animal.

Good nutrition, health care, genetics, a clean environment and lots of love and affection can help your dog live a longer life.

My rating: importance of vet care: (4), importance of nutrition (4), importance of love and affection: (4)


  1. Great article. I'd like to add that there are also a lot of fun things that come with your dog getting older. I find that my pug who is 13 years old has become even funnier as he has aged. He knows who he is and what he wants and doesn't waste anytime in telling me :)

    He has arthritis and is definitely less mobile than he used to be, but we overcome that by using a dog stroller. He gets out and walks for as long as he can and then rides for a break and then walks again and this continues. He loves his walks so this allows us to enjoy them without pushing it too far given his condition. So even if your dog has some physical issues there are stress-free ways to get activity back into the lives of our senior dogs and the health benefits of doing so can be unbelievable.

    Ann-Marie Fleming, Founder - Helping Older Dogs Enjoy Life

  2. Thanks Ann-Marie for reminding us that our seniors can still be so much fun. We just got to remember to include him in on the fun things and find ways to help him do it!