The first obvious signs of old age in a dog are often a graying muzzle and a lower energy level. Older dogs spend less time playing, more time napping and they sleep more soundly. Knowing how the aging process can affect a dog, recognizing the signs of pain and aging, and making a few adjustments can give an elderly dog a healthier, happier life and extra quality time.
Large dogs age faster than small dogs. Some giant breeds are seniors as early as age five or six. Medium and large breeds may start showing some signs of aging around seven or eight, while many small breeds show few signs of aging before age ten. Even if your senior dog looks and seems to be healthy, regular vet check-ups are extremely important to manage changes associated with aging. Many vets will want to do special geriatric screenings to detect early changes in older dogs.
Do not simply assume that every new physical symptom or change in behavior is age related and nothing will help. Many age related health problems can be treated with medication to ease symptoms, alleviate pain, increase the quality of life, and help extend life....
- Age-related Diabetes can be successfully managed with insulin, weight control, and appropriate exercise.
- A cough could indicate a possible heart condition.... often the result of abnormalities associated with aging. Timely veterinary treatment with prescribed medications can lower blood pressure, help the heart beat more efficiently, and prevent fluid build-up in the lungs.
- Stiffness and painful arthritic joints can make a dog reluctant to walk, run, jump and play. Arthritis makes it hard to rise from a resting position. Going up and down stairs is especially hard. Supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health can ease arthritis pain by helping to maintain the healthy cartilage that cushions bones. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for dogs are very effective painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents allow increased activity and freedom of movement. They must be prescribed by a veterinarian and dogs taking these medications must be closely monitored for potential side effects.
In addition to medication, simple changes around your home can make life easier and less painful.....
Keep bowls of fresh, clean water on every level of your home so your senior dog doesn't have to go up and down stairs so often.
Cover slippery tile and wood floors with rubber backed rugs or mats to prevent slipping and sliding and possible injury.
For dogs that are used to sharing your bed or have always been allowed on a couch, a pet ramp or a set of doggie steps makes getting up and down easier and prevents stress on joints. For dogs that can no longer jump in and out of an SUV, truck or van, folding or telescoping ramps are available at many pet supply stores. These lightweight but sturdy pet ramps can also be used instead of stairs for access to porches and decks.
Being less active often leads to weight gain. Obesity can cause heart disease, diabetes, and early death. Extra pounds increase stress on aging joints. To prevent obesity or help an overweight dog lose weight, switch to a high quality weight control or senior dog food. In addition to having less fat and calories, good senior formulas meet the special nutritional needs of older dogs. They contain the right amount of fiber for intestinal health, less sodium and additives to improve kidney function, antioxidants to help strengthen the immune system and slow aging, plus additives for joint health and optimal skin and coat quality. Do not make sudden changes, however. when switching to a new food. Mix the new food with the old food in gradually increasing proportions, over the course of about a week to 10 days.
Offer only low-calorie treats. Keep treats to a minimum and do not feed table scraps.
Use elevated feeders to make eating and drinking more comfortable for large dogs. Raised bowls reduce neck and back strain and aid digestion.
Exercise will also help with weight control, but exercise ability will change with advancing age. Provide regular moderate exercise with shorter walks and less running and vigorous outdoor play. Modify the amount and intensity according to your dogs strength and endurance. To ease neck strain when walking on a leash, use a harness instead of fastening a lead to the dog's collar.
Periodontal disease, common in senior dogs, can cause a dog to stop eating. It can even lead to kidney, liver, and heart disease. Brush your dog's teeth regularly, using a special toothpaste made for dogs. Have teeth cleaned as your veterinarian advises.
As dogs age they have less tolerance for both hot and cold temperatures. Being cold will increase muscle stiffness and aggravate aching joints. Senior dogs need extra protection from winter weather. Unless your dog has his own extra thick fur, provide a warm doggie coat to go outside on cold days. Short haired dogs may be more comfortable wearing light weight doggie sweaters or sweatsuits indoors as well. Old dogs are also more susceptible to heat related stress than young dogs. Take extra precautions to prevent over-exertion in warm temperatures. Keep them cool and comfortable indoors in summer.
Frequent grooming is essential for senior dogs. Brushing improves circulation, skin condition, and helps keep the coat shiny and tangle-free. While grooming, examine your dog from nose to tail... checking for lumps, bumps, rashes and sores... to find any new abnormalities early. You and your dog will both benefit from the touching, attention, and quiet time together.
Trim nails regularly. Since older dogs donít run and play as much as they used to, their nails wonít wear down naturally and will need more frequent trimming. Well trimmed nails make walking easier, especially on slippery surfaces.
Provide a soft, comfortable, well padded bed. You may want to invest in an orthopedic bed, specially designed to ease pressure on aching bones and painful joints. Have a bed or comfortable area for resting and sleeping in a quiet area on every level of your home. This will also reduce strenuous stair climbing
When you travel and can't take your dog with you, instead of taking him to a boarding kennel, ask a trusted friend to pet sit or hire a professional pet sitter. Familiar surroundings to eat, sleep, and exercise reduce stress.
If your senior dog has impaired vision, donít rearrange furniture or add new obstacles. Dogs are able adapt to failing eyesight and get along quite well in familiar surroundings. Use baby gates for protective barriers at stairs.
Teach children how to help their senior companion stay safe and well. Rough play cannot be allowed. Extra supervision will be needed around small children, encouraging them to be kind and gentle. Older dogs may not tolerate stressful situations, screaming and being hurt or teased.
Incontinence, even in dogs who were perfectly house-trained, is one of the most frustrating age related problems to deal with. Although loss of bladder control can be a sign of Diabetes.or kidney disease, and these serious conditions must be ruled out before treatment begins, urinary incontinence is usually caused by an infection or age-related changes. A bladder infection can be diagnosed with urinalysis and treated with appropriate antibiotics. Age related changes can include a hormone imbalance, loss of muscle control in the bladder or a weak bladder sphincter. These problems can often be successfully managed and treated with medications. For dogs who do not respond adequately to medication, absorbent pads can be worn, held in place with doggie bloomers for females and belly bands for males.
Never scold or punish a dog for accidents due to incontinence. The dog is probably just as upset as you are by loss of control. Help prevent accidents by taking your senior dog outside more often. Take them out as soon as they wake up in the morning, before bedtime, after eating and after napping... even waking them periodically to go outside every few hours. If you have a securely fenced yard, a doggie door can mean less accidents in the house. For older dogs with urgent and unpredictable bladder and bowel problems, a doggie door will allow them to go in and out whenever they need to, even when you're not home.
Incontinence can also be a symptom of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. CDS causes disorientation, confusion, memory loss and personality changes that are very similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is sometimes referred to as "old dog syndrome", "brain aging", "doggie dementia" or "senility". Click Here to read more about CDS and treatment for this devastating disease.
Give your senior dog lots of love and attention and do all you can to keep him comfortable, active and involved in family life. It may require a little extra time, patience, and attention from you, but having a healthy, happy companion for as long as possible is priceless.
Recommended for senior dogs....
|Pet Gear Tri-Fold Ramp|
This sturdy pet ramp is tri-fold pet ramp is portable and compact. It's 20" wide and opens to 70" long. It folds quickly and easily, carries like a briefcase and holds up to 200 lbs. Anti-skid surface material allows dry or wet use.
|Greenies Senior Formula Dog Treats|
Greenies Senior Formula has a chewy texture and is easy for older dogs to digest. They're fortified with vitamins and minerals, including Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Like all Greenies, they freshen breath and the rounded design and toothbrush shape helps to clean teeth. Greenies Senior are available in sizes for all dogs from teenie to large.