As our best friends age, they can often begin to suffer with many of the same maladies we humans do. Your dog’s needs change as they get older. A dog is considered senior once they reach about the age of 7 years old, although according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) it depends on the size and breed of your dog. Large breeds like Great Danes will age faster while smaller breeds like Chihuahuas may not hit old age until they are around 9.
It’s sometimes difficult to see your dog as anything other than the playful puppy you brought home all those years ago. Even they don’t think they’ve grown up half the time! However if they’ve hit this age bracket it’s important to keep an eye on behavioural and physical changes that may indicate growing health concerns that need addressing.
Dogs can often suffer from symptoms similar to Alzheimers in humans. This senility can be caused by something called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. The general dementia-like symptoms you might pick up on are confusion and disorientation, barking and whining for no discernible reason, appearing lost in familiar surroundings, not recognising people they should know, and incontinence. Cognitive issues cannot generally be ‘cured’ but if you speak to your Vet they will be able to point you towards the right supplements and medications to support brain health.
Loss of senses
Another age-related issue people and dogs have in common is a loss of senses. Vision, hearing and smell can all degrade for dogs, and it may take a little while to notice. Subtle signs like being easily startled when approached or not responding to commands can be mistaken as bad behaviour, but can really be symptoms of a bigger issue. You can help your dog out by making sure his bedding and bowls etc are easy to access and stay in the same place. Cloudy eyes don’t always mean blindness, multiple conditions can cause this so make sure to have it checked. Cataracts are a possibility though and can be quite serious.
Dog’s joints degrade with age, but they will naturally try to hide any pain they are in. It may not be immediately obvious but you might notice they are moving more slowly, having trouble getting up and down or struggling after long walks. Osteoarthritis is a common ailment that causes loss of lubrication and wearing away of the joints in the shoulders, hips and legs. Good nutrition and lifestyle changes are the best things you can do if these problems occur. Shorter, easier walks more frequently rather than long walks, and a healthy diets with supplements will help your dog feel more comfortable.
Aging pets are tired. They may have joint issues and more general aches and pains. They slow down. Being less active and changes in nutritional needs can lead quite easily to obesity. Many dogs are overweight before old age hits and this worsens. Obesity puts stress on aging joints as well as contributing to illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. It is more manageable than other issues though, using diet and exercise.
Lumps and Bumps
You might start to notice bumps pop up on your older dog. This is really normal, but still something to watch. Often these are something called ‘Lipomas’, which are harmless fatty deposits beneath the skin. Always get lumps checked out though as there is always a chance these could be tumours, which in some cases may be cancerous.
It is common for older dogs to suffer from tooth decay and gum infections. The most obvious signs are bad breath, swollen gums and lack of appetite. Luckily dental issues are fairly easy to diagnose and treat.
Unfortunately incontinence is a common issue in old age. Accidents will start to happen in even the most well trained dogs. It’s simply harder to control the muscles for them. Don’t punish them for these accidents, your dog will already feel bad about it. Instead, give them more opportunities to go out throughout the day.
If your dog is crossing into senior territory, make sure they are getting regular Vet visits every 6 months. If any of the symptoms we have noted here arise, take them in for an extra visit and get it checked out. Same with any changes that are out of the ordinary. You get the best outcomes through early interventions