Caring For A Senior Dog
There is no getting away from the fact that at some point, our dogs will start to slow down and show signs of ageing. Generally speaking, smaller dogs age more slowly and live longer than large dogs. Nevertheless, sooner or later, all dog owners have to face the fact that their dog just can’t so what he used to.
Signs Of Ageing.
Just like with us, ageing in dogs creeps up gradually. We will begin to notice changes in our dog’s behavior and appearance.
Signs to watch out for include:
Greying around the muzzle
Eyes changing color. There could be a bluish glaze to the eyes. This doesn’t affect eyesight but if the blue starts to whiten, this could indicate the onset of cataracts.
Decreased energy levels
Change in sleep patterns. Your older dog will generally sleep more during the day but may also sleep less during the night.
The skin and coat start to deteriorate. The coat will become coarser, there could be white hairs or bald spots.
A tendency to put on weight
Of course, not all these symptoms will appear at once and not all symptoms will apply to all dogs.
Some older dogs may become more aggressive. This can often be attributed to pain they are experiencing from arthritis or a similar condition.
Medical Conditions In Older Dogs
When you start noticing signs of ageing in your dog, it is time to visit the vet. Your vet can give your dog a thorough medical check-up. Early diagnosis is vital for many of the conditions that afflict older dogs. It will also give you an opportunity to discuss any changes to diet or exercise patterns which may benefit your dog.
Arthritis is a disease of the joints which is more prevalent in older dogs. The joint cartilage wears away, leading to friction between the bones. This friction causes pain and your dog could experience problems moving.
There is no cure for arthritis, but a lot can be done to ease the pain and manage the disease.
Related Article: How To Recognize Arthritis In Dogs
Gum disease is a common problem in dogs. It can lead to teeth being loss or serious problems in other parts of the dog’s body. It is caused by a film, known as plaque, building up on the teeth. If this is not removed it will harden and turn to tartar. Eventually this will lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly and a change of diet may help prevent these problems. Your vet will be able to advise on the best course of action.
The first indicator that your dog is suffering from gum disease will probably be bad breath, but also keep an eye out for inflamed gums and discoloured teeth.
Related Article: What Causes Bad Breath In Dogs?
Diabetes is caused by a shortage of insulin reaching body cells. There are two main reasons for this, The pancreas may not be making enough insulin or the insulin that is produced may not be being used.
Insulin is a hormone that instructs cells to use glucose. Glucose can be thought of as the body's fuel.
Diabetes is a serious condition but it is treatable. If you suspect your dog has diabetes, visit your vet immediately.
Symptoms include: thirst, excess urination, weight loss and increased appetite.
Related Article: Dogs and Diabetes - What You Should Know
Heart disease is experienced by more than a quarter of all dogs over the age of seven. Symptoms include coughing, tiring easily, more rapid breathing, shortness of breath and fainting. A definitive diagnosis can only be made by your vet. The earlier you pay him a visit the better.
Related Article: Signs Of Heart Disease In Dogs
The most obvious sign of cancer in dogs is a lump beneath the skin. In older dogs, many of these are benign and are just a sign of getting old. However malignant cancers will need surgical removal.
Signs to watch out for include: weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, poor appetite and lack of energy.
Once again, do not assume a lump is benign – get your dog checked by your vet.
Care For Older Dogs
Older dogs should have regular medical examinations, take part in regular exercise and be fed a nutritious, balanced diet.
Together with your vet, you should draw up an exercise plan that is suitable to your dogs age and condition.
Some adjustments will need to be made the diet to account for the reduced activity pattern.
The regular check-ups should include an examination of your dog’s mouth.
If your dog’s eyesight is starting to fail, you may need to make adjustments to his environment so that he doesn’t walk into things. He may not hear you approaching from behind. Try not to catch him unawares and frighten him. Make more noise as you approach.
Be patient with your older dog. This is your chance to repay them for the fun and loyalty they have given you over the years.