Ask the Vet: Caring for a Senior Giant Breed Dog

Written by Dr. Brian J. Bourquin, Founder, Boston Veterinary Clinic

Caring for a Senior Giant Breed Dog

Caring for a Senior Giant Breed Dog

READER QUESTION: “My senior giant breed dog is turning six soon. What are some tips and tricks for giving a senior, giant breed a long and happy life.”

Dr. B’s Answer:

This is a great question! Giant breeds age much quicker than most other dogs and accordingly their nutrition and vitamin needs are different.  For example we refer to smaller breeds as senior at age seven, whereas our giant breeds are already seniors at six  The definition of a senior is defined  as the last 25% of their lives which relates to the point at which we can expect to start to see problems with the various body systems.  This does not mean your gentle giant will not enjoy their golden years, but the planning starts earlier.  Nutritionally, I would recommend starting a senior food earlier than later.  Many senior foods contain qualities that are ideal for the aging senior.  Examples include glucosamine to help with joint health, buffers to help deal with the acidity that effects our seniors, as well as higher quality ingredients that are more bioavailable.

Caring for a Senior Giant Breed Dog
Ask the Vet: Caring for Senior Giant Breeds

It may sound self-serving, but our senior giant breed dogs should also be seen more often by your vet, ideally every six months.  Dental disease, joint issues, and tumors start to appear, as well as issues with eyesight, hearing, and sometimes even taste!  With regular check-ups many of these issues can be addressed before they become big problems.  Joint issues deserve extra attention. 

Giant breeds have to haul around much more weight than other companion pets. The wear and tear on such gentle giants as Great Danes and Mastiffs can be seen as early as a few years old. Preventing pain before it starts is key and even though it will eventually catch up with their birthdate, we now have multiple modalities to address pain and arthritis.  Another area that may surprise you are behavior issues.  Just like our senior humans, senior dogs do not always do as well with change so before any large life changing events (moving, adding two legged children, etc) talk to your vet on ways to help your dog out during this transition.

A few tips for Caring for a Senior Giant Breed:

  • Regular exercise is good! Exercise keeps the weight down which is good for us all.
  • Keep a log of any tumors your dog may have, measuring it once a week, so if they change your know.
  • Get the extra cushion when picking out beds as that extra weight can really take a toll on joints.
  • Crap in, crap out! you get what you pay for when purchasing dog food.
  • Brush teeth every day and you will save thousands on dental bills.
  • [The Internet] lies! If you are nervous enough you are looking up things on line, see a vet!

Senior pets are truly a pleasure to work with. It is so rewarding to see the difference you can make it their lives whether it be managing joint disease, removing a painful tooth, or just keeping that furry friend around for another year to provide unconditional love in a giant package! This has been Ask the Vet with  Dr B.!  

Have you read our article about the Road to Longevity:

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