April 21, 2023


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Your Guide to Senior Dog Care

This may be hard to hear, but our dogs should be living well beyond their current lifespans. Senior dog care is fundamentally lacking.

While dog aging is a natural process, the way that dogs are typically cared for accelerates this aging process far beyond what should be natural. From the chemicals our dogs are exposed to, to the quality of their food – dogs are not being supported in living long, vibrantly healthy lives.

In this post, I’ll talk about how to take care of a dog exhibiting signs of aging, as well as how to improve the quality of any dog’s life to extend their lifespan and improve their vitality.

Senior Dogs: What to Expect

So when do dogs become “senior?” It depends on the breed and size of your canine, but more importantly the environment your dog resides in, and how that may be impacting them. I see a couple different types of clients in my day-to-day when it comes to senior dogs.

If you are noticing things like your dog interacting differently with other canines or vice versa, these may be signs that the aging process has begun, something other dogs instinctively will pick up on.

The first type of canine I encounter is usually the older dog with a lifetime clean bill of health that suddenly develops a malicious cancer or ailment toward the end of their lives. Our dogs are so nuanced and individual, if we aren’t in tune with their  needs it becomes very difficult to assess their health and understand their complex emotions. Sometimes we assume these severe health issues are part of the senior dog experience – but the reality is, there’s a lot of ways to change that, starting with our own roles.

The second type of canine I often see is the younger dog (usually somewhere between 5 and 8) that is already exhibiting a lot of signs of old age. In the same way that we can extend our dogs’ lives with careful attention to how we are grounding our environments, we can also shorten them. Sometimes it is a natural phase for certain breeds or sizes to start shifting into the senior category at a younger age, but most times it is a reflection of poor quality of life and something to carefully consider.

What is my role in my relationship with my senior dog?

If you’ve interacted with my work, you know I believe that taking on the role of the embodied alpha is essential to build strong, lasting relationships with your dogs. Embodying the alpha role entails energetically becoming the leader of the pack – which allows your dog room to relax and thrive without the responsibility of feeling they need to protect their pack in a modern world they don’t understand.

You might have noticed that I mentioned the “pack.” Our dogs are pack animals – this is a fact based on their historical descent from wolves. They thrive when they are surrounded by similar-minded members of the pack and operate best when there is a very clearly-defined hierarchy. Without this hierarchy energetically in place, our dogs are left to take on the role of the “alpha” in our relationships themselves, which ultimately is a huge stressor in their daily lives.

With a senior dog (and any dog), your role is to be in tune and attentive. It all goes back to making sure they are happy and calm in a safe environment. As the caretaker, it is your responsibility to ensure that all their needs are being met effectively, and further to make changes when they are not.

It’s easy for us to think we are paying attention to our dogs and oftentimes we genuinely are trying, but real understanding takes time and practice. It’s all about getting really in touch with all aspects of your canine’s life from the micro level to the macro and really taking time to understand the signals and messages our dogs are sending to us. Pay special attention to what you feed your dogs,what toys they are playing with and what they are made of,  how often you take them outside and where they get to spend the majority of that time, and other things within your design.

Revitalize your senior dog

There are a few things that heighten the impacts of aging in our canine companions in my experience, with diet and stress being the most reported reasons I come across.

When it comes to diet, there’s a lot of misinformation in the dog food industry. It’s easier than ever for packages to label ingredients as “natural” with little regulation and oversight. A lot of people don’t know that the dog food we typically feed our animals is packed with sugar, which can amplify a host of behavioral problems.

If you are noticing a lot of stiff and slow movement from your dog that may be a sign of aging, a new diet could be a cure-all. One of the main things that can happen when you find the right diet for your dog is a decrease in levels of inflammation. From there, vitality and mobility typically return. In terms of finding the right diet, a great starting point is to explore holistic canine nutrition, which promotes health and happiness in the context of high-quality and well-sourced ingredients.

Read next: How Holistic Dog Care Can Improve Your Dog’s Life

Let’s shift our focus to stress. This is one of the other ways I often see clients make tangible changes with their animals. By lowering their stress levels and relieving some of that anxiety, oftentimes our dogs react well. They seem more energetic, healthier, and most importantly, happier. This connects a lot to the pack mentality I discussed earlier, our dogs really do need a clear social hierarchy to find their place and thrive.

The ultimate goal is not to eliminate stress entirely – that’s impossible, and actually not necessary given some stressors can be good in the context of our dogs’ lives. But really focusing on how to minimize stress, and more importantly, manage it when tensions rise, is the true central concept here. Again, it is all about being attuned to your canine so you can identify situations that may be stressful for them and intervene.

My 6 Guiding Pillars for Healthy Dogs

There’s six main pillars that really break down the overview of our aging dogs and how we can interact with them. Conceptually, these really reiterate the points that I’ve been discussing throughout this post, but breaking it down into six categories is a great way to remember each of them and maximize your integration of all of them into your dog’s life.

Try to tie all these pillars together and keep them in the forefront of your mind – they not only relate to maximizing the experience of senior dogs, but building a happy life for any dog. It is how all these different factors interact that really determines the state of your dog.

  1. Emotional

  2. Physical

  3. Nutritional

  4. Environmental

  5. Behavioral

  6. Psychological

Tying it all together

Having an aging dog can be a daunting experience. It’s not fun to see our loved ones struggling with unexpected medical issues and slowing down, but there is so much we can do to give them the happiest lifestyle possible, and even extend their lives dramatically.

Environment is everything. Take on that embodied alpha role in your canine relationship and project a grounded and tranquil vibe. Tying together my six pillars is one way we can lengthen dog life expectancy and help them maintain energy for more years.

We want our dogs to have vitality, and we have the power to make this happen and last for longer amounts of time than we ever imagined by just being present and aware.

It’s never too late to find alignment and integrity within your pack! Making key changes in your and your dog’s life ensures a healthy aging process.

I’d love to help guide you through the process of identifying where your dog can be better supported and how you can show up for an aging dog. Schedule a consultation today.

Sasha Armstrong

Founder of Canine State of Mind

A place where dog parents can learn more about canine behavior and how to create the environment for a closer relationship with their dog.



Understanding Energetic Cues and Expressions in Dogs

Transforming your relationship with your dog requires understanding how they view our world and communicate in it. Learning to read your dog’s energetics and cues goes beyond interpreting their behavior–it’s about cultivating a profound connection to our canine companions. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn to:
  • Decode canine energetic cues
  • Become a confident and peaceful leader capable of meeting your dog’s needs
  • Foster trust, respect, and empathy with your dog
  • Ensure your dog feels safe + valued
  • Cultivate a deep sense of of purpose in your own life

My gift to you