Looking out for aging signs in dogs
Hints & Tips
As our dogs get older, we need to be aware as to how we can make life easier for them and also how we need to change their care routine to reflect this.
Dogs reflect humans in that they are individual and all different. It is the case that there are certain breeds and sizes of dogs that hold a higher life expectancy - meaning that they maintain their health levels until much later in their lives. With the correct care, love and attention our senior dogs can progress as very happy animals. Being aware of how your dog will progress and noticing any health problems at an early age will allow you to pick up problems earlier, treating them quicker!
When does our dog become classed as senior?
Tufts University published the following guidelines for defining a senior dog: "The point at which a dog qualifies as 'aged' varies. Veterinarians generally consider small dogs to be senior citizens at about 12 years of age, while large dogs reach the senior stage at 6 to 8 years of age. This roughly corresponds to the 55-plus category in people."
What are the signs of aging that we need to be aware of?
Senior pets generally get slower as they progress through life. Day to day activities such as your dog standing up may become more difficult. Ensure that you are aware of these changes and how rapid they occur. It may be that your dog simply needs some treatment due to an injury, in effect never assume old age is the reason why your dog is struggling, it is simply one option.
Although annual vet visits may seem unnecessary, they are imperative to find out if any illnesses or weaknesses in your dogs defences have occurred. Arthritis, diabetes, Cushing's disease, cancer, and kidney, heart, and liver diseases are all more common in senior dogs.
Prevention is better than cure, so by making sure that you manage your dogs weight, clean teeth, put in place regular vets check ups and observe your pets movements - you will be there to act quickly at the first signs of illness.
Keeping your dog healthy
- Observe your dog breeds genetic background and see how you can prevent illness and premature aging.
- Nutrition can hinder the ageing process if well managed.
Avoid serious illness or disease where possible through prevention.
- By controlling and maintaining a high level of cleanliness, you will reduce the risks of illness and infection.
When should I visit the vet's?
It is often the case the senior dogs can get ill quite quickly or over a period of time, but when should we visit the vet's. Below are some helpful instances of what to do if your senior dog becomes ill or not as sprightly as normal.
Sudden weight loss: May be due to a serious illness, Take your dog to the vet as soon as is possible.
Loss of appetite: If your dog reduces it's intake of food, monitor the situation, however if they significantly reduce their intake of food or they stop eating altogether, always consult your vet's.
Increased appetite: If your dog increases its food intake now and again, this is not an issue. However if your dog increases appetite significantly and needs to maintain this high level of food intake, take the dog to the vet's. This behaviour can be due to the signs of diabetes.
Diarrhoea or vomiting: As a one off this may be OK, but ensure monitoring of your dog. If symptoms lasts more than a day, it can be a sign of numerous problems. Ensure that a visit is made to the vet's.
Increased thirst and increased urination: if you notice any of these symptoms and detect that they are not due to increased exercise etc, always consult your vet's.
Coughing and excessive panting: Possible indication of heart disease. If these symptoms are constant and not due to excessive exercise, please contact your vet.
Difficulty getting up: May indicate arthritis, consult your vet for information.
Vision and Hearing: This is a natural issue as dogs get older, ensure that you accommodate such changes.
Graying hair and dry skin: This is a sign of ageing. Make sure you pay attention to massage, which will help the skin and your dog's coat.
Often as your dog matures, it will also change it's behaviour. Make sure that you monitor this as there may be simple things you can do around the home to make your senior dog happier. Changes could include:
Loneliness: Your senior dog may not like being left alone as often, irritation will be shown through whining or excessive barking.
Noise sensitivity: Loud bangs such as fireworks may make your dog tremble or nervous. Try to avoid such happenings where possible.
Aggression: Due to irritation, your senior dog may become more aggressive. They may also take on this trait if they are in pain.
Confusion, lack of attentiveness, roaming, barking, accidents and bumps these are all instances which may start to occur in old age. Make sure you visit the vet's for advice on how to make your senior dog a happier dog.