Living with and Loving a Senior Dog


On May 12th, 2021 we had the privilege of speaking with Petminded expert Dr. Emma K. Grigg. Dr. Grigg is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, a Staff Research Associate and lecturer at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and a lecturer in canine behavior at Bergin University of Canine Studies in northern California.

Basically, she's starring in her own one-woman production of Cats & Dogs.

Once the pups and cats in attendance became acquainted with each other, Dr. Grigg got down to talking about:

  • What does aging look like in dogs?
  • Caring for caregivers.
  • Her exciting new course that will help you and your pup thrive during their golden years.

Some gems we learned…

The aging process in dogs:

  • Old age is not a disease!
  • Aging is a natural part of life that everyone experiences!
  • Think of aging as a privilege; something you get to experience.
  • It’s better to be prepared for the aging process so your dog can flourish in their later years.

How old is old?

  • Dogs are considered senior in the last 25% of their lifespan.
  • A dog’s lifespan depends on their breed.
  • Dogs are considered:
  • Mature from 2-6 years old.
  • Senior from 7-11 years old.
  • Geriatric from 12 years on.
  • Based on these calculations, larger breeds are dying during early adulthood.

What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?

Similar to dementia in humans, CCD is associated with brain aging in dogs.

Brain aging meaning:

  • Changes in awareness.
  • Decreased response to stimuli.

How does Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome Happen?

  • Aging!!
  • Toxins add up.
  • Blood flow slows down.
  • Neurons go retrograde.
  • Information becomes harder to process.
  • The most common signs of CCD can be summed up with the acronym DISHA.
  • Disorientation
  • Inability to navigate surroundings
  • Sleep/wake cycles disrupted
  • House training and other learned behaviors deteriorate
  • Activity levels alter and anxiety levels increase

What can you do?

While there’s no cure for aging and CCD, there are treatments that can alleviate symptoms and slow progression.

Actionable steps:

  • Use a checklist and keep a daily log so you can track changes over time.
  • Always consult with your vet regarding medications.
  • Provide an enriched diet and an enriched environment.
  • Find a community of like-minded pet parents.

Do things together! How dogs engage with their social environment will determine how well they age. Keep your dog physically and intellectually stimulated. But remember to pay attention to their limits and yours as well.

Care for Caregivers

If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes Petminded to raise a pet. Just kidding. But actually... when it comes to caring for an aging dog or cat, it's essential to have a strong support network. Your dog's quality of life is tied to your quality of life. You don't have to go on this pet-parenting journey alone. Understand that caring for a pet can be stressful. And having a community to turn to will help you find the right, evidence-based information for your four-legged family member.

If you want to learn more about this topic in an interactive way, checkout our course, "Helping Our Dogs Thrive in their Golden Years" taught by Dr. Grigg. Email us with any questions at

Course Page:

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