When we adopt man’s best friend, they fill us with the energy comparable to that of a puppy. Unfortunately, as our dogs age and we notice their energy slow down, it becomes time to watch for ailments of old age. As your dog enters his senior years, he will slow down and rest more and just as humans do, older dogs will begin to show gray in their coat.
Signs of trouble by acting lethargic are easy to miss in an older dog because they are usually somewhat lazy as they age. Keeping annual or semi-annual veterinarian appointments will help your vet watch for diseases common among senior dogs. For smaller dogs, they are considered senior right around seven years, while large breeds are considered senior between five and six years old. Though young dogs can also become ill, many diseases don’t present in dogs until they are of a senior age.
Vision and Hearing
As your dog ages, he may show signs of vision and hearing problems. You may have to speak louder to get your dog’s attention, or he may not jump up excited every time the doorbell rings. You may also notice your senior dog running into objects they easily navigated around when he was younger, such as your furniture or corners around doorways or hallways. A geriatric dog losing hearing or vision might become startled more easily. In your annual visit, ask your doctor to check their eyes and ears for eye diseases such as glaucoma and ear infections or build up in the dog’s ear.
Senior dogs are susceptible to common diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and urinary tract disease commonly appear in senior dogs. As your dog ages, the rate of cancer rises as well. Be sure to look for signs of disease in your dog as they grow older. Unusual lethargy, difficulty breathing, coughing, sneezing, decreased appetite, increased thirst, and accidents in the house are all common signs of a dog in distress.
Your senior dog’s weight should not fluctuate much. If you notice a drastic drop in your dog’s weight or a loss of appetite, be sure to visit with your veterinarian. Though smaller meals are common in senior dogs, you’ll want to make sure the amount of food your dog is eating and the diet you are providing are sufficient for their age, activity levels, and breed. A drastic weight loss quickly could be a sign of a problem you’ll want to be checked out by your veterinarian.
Arthritis is common in senior dogs, especially large or extra large breeds. Talk to your veterinarian early in your dog’s life about supplements such as glucosamine to aid in bone and joint comfort and health. When your dog is a senior dog, this dosage may increase, or your veterinarian may recommend additional supplements or medications to ease the discomfort and pain of arthritis in your older dog.
Just as people do while aging, your dog’s behavior may change as the grow older. Your dog may jump at loud noises as if scared or not hear much at all. He might become anxious or irritated easily. You may notice your dog’s anxiety increases if you are not visible to the dog. He may appear worried, possibly pacing the house looking for you or even the opposite may occur; your dog may be depressed or confused.
Getting older isn’t easy for any of us. Your dog will depend on you to continue loving and caring for him as he ages and journies through all the changes of becoming a geriatric dog. Be sure to visit with your veterinarian for each recommended check up. Your senior dog may require more frequent visits to the veterinarian than when he was younger. Your veterinarian will assist in watching closely for skin ailments, hearing and vision impairments, vaccines, and parasites. As your dog ages, be sure to discuss diet changes, if necessary, based on your dog’s age and breed, exercise adaptations based on your dog's age, and overall physical and mental health. Your veterinarian may request you make environmental changes to accommodate your senior dog such as bedding on the main floor, so your geriatric dog does not have to navigate stairs.
If your senior dog is showing signs of illness or disease, your veterinarian will offer suggestions for treatments or alternatives. The time to say goodbye to your beloved dog will come eventually, but enjoy your dog’s senior years. This is a time of love and caring between you and dog. You have spent his lifetime teaching your dog commands, tricks, and showing him the world. This geriatric time might be a little slower for your dog, but he will need your love and attention all the same.