Caring for your Older Newfoundland Dog

Updated on February 9, 2016
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The Newfoundland Club of America - responsible for the preservation, protection and welfare of the Newfoundland Dog in America since 1930.

Caring for your Older Newfoundland

A celebration of the golden years by Elizabeth Heath, General Education Committee, Newfoundland Club of America

Learn about common ailments that can lessen the quality of life for an older dog, and things you can do to make their senior years happy and comfortable.

So the inevitable has happened, a day you have dreaded for years, your newfie has somehow become old! "What happens now, does anything change, should I take him or her to the vet more often?" If you're anything like me you have a lot of questions.

The average life span for a Newfoundland is 8-10 years. But a whole lot of newfies are living into their teens, which is fantastic! Most veterinarians consider a 7 year old newfie a senior. They will want to do a routine check-up and blood work, often called a senior panel, to establish what the normal values are for your newf. Your dog has most likely already had blood work done by the age of 7 so it's just a matter of making sure everything remains normal. Some veterinarians will want to see your newfie every 6 months for a check up, some will also want to do blood work every 6 months. As your newfie ages it's important for your veterinarian to see him or her more often. Dogs age much faster than humans and giant breeds age even faster than other smaller breeds. Problems can arise quickly and if your vet sees your dog more often, he or she can hopefully treat a problem while it's still in the beginning stages instead of having to deliver a possible poor prognosis about your beloved newf.

Lets discuss some common ailments that your older newfie may acquire.

Every week while grooming your newf you should be feeling for any abnormal lumps, bumps, skin changes, heat or swelling. I remember when I first felt a lump on my newfie, I panicked and got her into the vet right away. It was a lipoma, a simple non-cancerous fatty tumor. A lot of dogs get these (skinny or overweight, happens to both). Your vet will use a needle to aspirate the lump and look at the cells under the microscope. Most lipomas are harmless and do not need to be removed unless they get large or interfere with movement. If your dog has a lipoma you do need to keep and eye on it for any changes and report them to the vet. Not every lump you may find is a lipoma, it could be something more serious like cancer. So of course if you find any abnormal lump you should always have the vet check it out.

Do you know how to tell if your newf is in pain? They can be a very stoic breed! One of the most common causes of pain in any dog is arthritis (joint inflammation) which can range from very mild to severe. Most newfies will develop some form of arthritis as they get older. Maybe your newf has difficulty getting up or laying down, is limping slightly or just slowing down. These are all signs of possible pain. When examining my newf for any physical changes I can tell when I get to a sore area, she will close her mouth slightly, or just look the other way. Very subtle signs!

How Old is the Oldest Newf?

Newfoundlands, being giant breed dogs, do not always have the lifespan we would wish for them. Advances in husbandry and veterinary care are helping Newfoundlands to live longer lives all the time.

How old do you think the oldest Newfoundland lived to be?

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Mild arthritis is easily treated. Your vet may suggest buffered aspirin, gentle massage, and a soft, padded bed. Talk to your vet about dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin that may help keep the joints lubricated. Keeping your newf at a healthy weight and exercising is important, walking can loosen up stiff joints and it keeps muscles in shape. Swimming is second nature to most newfies, it's a low impact, easy on the joints exercise. Older newfs can become tired more easily than their younger counterparts, so take it easy on your older friend!

A more severe form of arthritis is Osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage in joints is gradually lost. Treatment can involve surgery or medicinal management of any pain. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAID's, are often used to treat pain and inflammation in dogs. They can have side effects such as liver, kidney and gastrointestinal disease. Your vet will want to do blood tests every 3 to 6 months to make sure any NSAID's being used are not causing problems. Your vet will tell you what kind of outward signs to look for such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy. Some commonly known NSAID's are Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx and Etodolac. You and your vet will decide which medication will work best for your dog.

Injuries are common in older dogs. Maybe they ran too hard the day before or perhaps they simply turned wrong while laying down. Sometimes it doesn't take much to cause an injury in an older animal. A lot of injuries resolve on their own with restricted movement and rest. It's a good idea to see your vet if your newf seems to have an injury that isn't getting better in a day or two, or in the case of severe pain or injury, call your vet right away.

Taking care of an older, injured or handicapped Newfoundland isn’t always easy, they are big and heavy and most of the time hard to move! A few suggestions are:

A large padded bed is a must for a newf that cannot get around on it’s own. You want to prevent bedsores so turning a dog is necessary if they cannot do it on their own.

I have a 4 inch thick orthopedic foam bed that is 36"x54" for my newf, when it became worn out a bit I bought a queen size foam mattress topper, cut it to size (two pieces) and put the pieces under the actual bed for more support. It is a nice thick comfortable bed that isn’t too soft or too firm.

In the case of an incontinent dog you can buy piddle pads to place under him or her, or a waterproof mattress pad. I have a waterproof mattress pad that goes around the actual foam bed, and under the bed cover. Any accidents are easily cleaned up by throwing the bed cover and mattress pad into the washer.

Bathing and grooming an injured or handicapped newf is difficult, if not impossible. I have found that trimming the hair to a more manageable length helps immensely with clean up, and also helps regulate body temperature as this is more difficult as they age. Baby wipes work fantastic if you have a newf that leaks or dribbles urine on him or herself.

Moving a newf that needs help can be tricky. I have a canvas sling that is lined with fleece, it goes around the abdomen and has quick connect buckles attached with nylon and has two nylon handles. This sling has been a lifesaver for me! You can find slings in most pet supply catalogs. I use a collar or harness, and short leash to help my newf when she is wobbly on her front end.

Make sure you offer water to your newf often if they cannot get to it on their own, they really do drink a lot!

To reduce the chance of injury and strain on joints I suggest a ramp for getting in and out of vehicles. I have a ramp instead of stairs for going into the yard as well. Rubber backed rugs are essential on slick surfaces where your newf might lose it’s footing and fall.

Eyes can become cloudy with nuclear sclerosis, a harmless clouding of the lens. Some newfs develop cataracts which can be surgically removed. Hearing may start to fail as well. Make sure family and visitors know how to get his or her attention without startling them.

Warning Signs for Older Newfoundlands

Most of us know when something is wrong with our newfs. We have a feeling or an intuition that tells us to take a closer look. Sometimes it’s obvious that something is wrong and we need to consult the vet.

Which of these are warning signs of possible health problems?

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What are something you do to make your older newf happy and healthy? Share your hints and tips here.

© 2011 Newfoundland Club of America

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      Karlene 6 days ago

      My boy is almost over ten now and was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, still going strong with raw food, medicinal mushroom and turkey tail , along with other holistic stuff! A few walks around my 5 acres a day and lots of full body massages covered in love!

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      Tracey 4 months ago

      We just lost our 14 year old. He was healthy up until the last 2 months. He was doing well but started to loose control of his back legs, was weak and became blind. We got him 7 years ago as a rescue and were so blessed to have him for as long as we did. RIP Superior Beaumont.

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      Denise 15 months ago

      We got an 11 year old Romanian rescue Newfie who had had numerous mammary tumours removed by Ro vets. Vets in UK gave her 2 months to live. That was 4 months ago and she is going from strength to strength. All raw barf diet in conjunction with oils and supplements have given her a new zest for life. Main tumour on her tail has halved in size, mammary tumours remain the same but no new ones and her energy levels are fantastic. She's enjoying what was supposed to be 'palliative care' for her last weeks.

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      Duncan A Wilson 20 months ago

      I Have a newfie called Bosun.He will be 11 in june.We have noticed he is slowing down a lot now breathing very heavy,terrible breath,but still a beautiful boy and a huge part of the family.

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      Jessica 23 months ago

      I just lost mine at 16, and she was still in fantastic health in general. She had two perfect senior blood panels this past year. I was overjoyed to find she had none of the functional decline of organs that we expect to see with seniors. Unfortunately she had an intestinal blockage that the vet missed, in spite of doing an abdominal X-ray, when I took her in for vomiting on January 3rd. She began to bloat on January 6th and I rushed her back in, but they advised strongly against the surgery at that point, to fix what they had missed. I am still deeply grieving--especially since this didn't have to happen. But I can say that her quality of life was extraordinary right up to the end. She had a little arthritis in her back knees, but that didn't impact mobility at all...just a little slow getting up. We helped that with cosequin. She always had a fantastic appetite, was always active and playful, loved to romp and run and never had a single illness. Interestingly, she INSISTED, all her life, on sleeping on cold hard surfaces. She had inside/outside access 100% of the time, and was allowed to be wherever she wanted, but she had no interest in padded dog beds or padding of any kind--I tried offering everything--eggshell foam, air mats, water mats, yoga mats, folded blankets, fleece mats. No interest. About five years ago, I ordered cool-a-roo cots for her and my other two dogs (huskies) thinking maybe padding just made them all too hot. She DID use that a good bit, though not all the time. They are nice because they allow air flow from underneath, but keep them off the cold hard ground, protecting their joints. Anyway, she knew what she wanted, no matter what I thought about it. I prepared all her meals at home, and in the last couple of years added probiotics. I don't know if it was her diet that kept her healthy, or if she had an amazing gene pool or if it was a combination of both, but she was such a joy to me and I am so grateful to have had her for so long.

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      Laurie 2 years ago

      My newf lived to 13. He never had a health problem but had cruciate surgery on both his knees when he was one. Acupunture for his osteoarthritis helped in the last three years of his life!

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      Wendy 2 years ago

      My 15 year old Newf was a rescue when she was 2 years old. She was in such terrible shape that the vet warned me that she would be lucky to reach age 4. Swimming every day and lots of love made the difference. Now she has lost most of her hair and sometimes does lays around all day. However, when she gets active, she chases the cat. I know the end is near but it is hard to tell when. Thank goodness for my awesome vet.

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      Samantha 2 years ago

      My family newf, Otis, just turned 11 years old and he is doing phenomenally well! The key is that he keeps moving (goes out 5-6 times daily) and has a healthy diet. He also gets glucosamine every day among a

      Thyroid pill. If he's a little slow moving/achy, we give him a pain reliever and it helps. He also gets brushed out everyday and we keep the house cool for his comfort. He's a happy dog, super sweet, and we are so lucky to have him!

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      Cheryl Smith 2 years ago

      My female Newf, Mercy, will be 14 in 7 weeks! She has a liver disease and has lost weight, but is still active with a good appetite. She has developed the habit of eating everything she can get off the kitchen counters. How she was able to reach the pecan pie yesterday, we cannot imagine but she ate the entire thing.

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      Jeff & Mary Ann 2 years ago

      Bridget, a rescue newf we adopted when she was 10, turned 13 last month. About 8 months ago her deteriorating back end (osteoarthritis) had gotten so bad we were afraid we'd lose her. She was already taking Deramaxx, Tramadol and Glucosamine so our vet suggested Adequan injections at 2 per week for 4 weeks. In about a week Bridget was significantly improved. After that first month she's been getting one injection per week. She seems to have improved slowly over time so maybe Adequan's claims of promoting cartilage growth are true. More importantly, she's now more alert, involved and eating better. Adequan injections aren't cheap but for us they are, quite literally, a lifesaver.

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      jan 3 years ago

      my ten and a half newfie is always getting utis and my vet says a vulvoplasty would end all the infections. My fear is she gets so stressed out when she gets home from the vet, I am afraid of her having a heart attack from the stress of going through that at her age. I feel that keeping her clean and being on meds for what time she has left is the better. Has anyone been through this with a newf this age?

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      If you can't afford a special harness, I have used a regular old bed sheet for assistance and it works fine. We had such a tough time with our last Newf, because of stairs to go outside. Next time we will make or get a ramp, when our next one gets older.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have dog beds covering my entire doorway of my arch, and my 11 year old bunches everything up to lay around them, but not on them, insists on the floor. Any ideas.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I have been trying to find directions for these.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I just replace my futon mattress with a regular mattress so the nice soft..very LARGE futon is now in the dog room for my old guy to lie down on

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thicker quality yoga mats helped my old newf recover from loss of muscle tone; we put them in all his favorite paths. they are colorful enough so elderly people can see them and they are inexpensive. Once my dog felt secure he was able to get around and build muscle tone.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Kathy suggested a harness that has worked well for our twelve and one-half year-old Newf.

      It is called a Help'EmUp Harness. Their web site is

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thinning of the hair may also be an issue with an older dog. I found that my 12-year old was developing sores on her elbows, so in addition to a soft bed and more rubber backed rugs for her I made some elbow pads. She loves them and they have made a tremendous difference in her health and confidence.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      My Newfie will be 9 years old next month. I feed him Iams premium food for senior dogs. He always has plenty of fresh water. Since I have never fed him any "people food", this has helped to keep him at a healthy weight throughout his life. He gets regular exercise, regular vet check ups, and regular groomings. He really hasn't lost much "pep in his step" and most times loves to play with me just like he did when he was a puppy! Above all else, I attribute tons of love to his well being. Daily "belly rubs" and "snuggling sessions" show him how much I love him and need him. We are best friends, and I will love him forever for all the great times we've shared and for all the great times we are still going to have!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I make sure to feed my 6-year-old spayed female Newf, Maeve Dog, a healthy commercial diet, in my case Taste of the Wild, but not too much as I don't want her getting obese. My veterinarian, himself a long-time German Shepherd owner, will do a senior panel next January, when she is seven. So far, aside from a bit of lameness, she's doing fine and loved Wednesday's New England blizzard.