The Ageing Dog

We all know how quickly time flies. One minute you are cleaning up after your new puppy and the next minute you realise your 'puppy' is old and seems reluctant to get out of bed in the morning! Each life stage brings new joy and new challenges. This month we are going to explore some of the changes your dog faces as it ages and what we can do to ensure we have a happy and healthy hound.

As our dogs live relatively short lives in comparison to humans, it is sometimes difficult to comprehend the way ageing progresses in our pet. Different breeds also age differently, the giant breeds such as the Great Dane for example, are thought of as middle aged around 5 years old.
Whereas in the smaller and medium breeds it is usually around 7yrs. Here are a few of the common problems associated with ageing.

The most important thing you can do for your dog is to help it maintain a healthy weight throughout its life.

Most pet owners understand the importance of good nutrition and the role it plays in the health of their dog. It is just as important to remember that nutritional requirements change as a dog ages. 

WEIGHT GAIN OBESITY                             
Weight gain is common in older dogs for several reasons but obesity, especially in the senior dog, can be the cause of/ or can complicate other health problems. If you think your dog is getting a little 'chunky'. check the feeding guide provided by the brand of food you are using to ensure you are feeding the correct quantity and if necessary, reduce the amount.

Is the food still relevant to your dog's life stage?
As dogs age, it is common for their metabolism to slow meaning their calorific requirements will be less than when they were younger and more active. Most good quality dog foods take this into consideration, which is why they produce foods appropriate to the various stages of your dog's life. 

This can also be a problem in the older dog, although this is usually associated with more serious underlying medical issues. If you have noticed that your dog is losing weight - get him checked out by your vet. There are many health issues that can be managed by using the correct diet in your ageing pet.

DENTAL HYGEINE is one of the health issues most neglected by dog owners and yet has a profound impact upon the wellbeing of your pet.
If you have not been keeping a check on your dog's teeth over the years, either by brushing them yourself or by having regular dental checks and teeth cleans done by your Veterinarian, there will be a good chance your dog will develop some form of oral disease. Bad breath, drooling, bloody gums and loose teeth are all signs of deteriorating periodontal disease. This can lead to systemic infections or aggravate existing conditions such as impaired kidney function. Owners may not realise the impact dental issues are having on their dog - until they are treated and their dog suddenly has a new lease on life!

If your dog is slowing down and long walks aren't possible any more, consider doing shorter ones more frequently. 

As we age, it is common for some of us to suffer from decreased movement and arthritis  and our pets are no different. Hip dysplasia is a common genetical defect in dogs but may only have serious impact as our dog ages.

There are many ways in which you can alleviate joint and arthritic pain. A trip to your Vet will be of great benefit and he may suggest: -

  • The use of prescribed pain killers
  • Changing to a joint support diet
  • using orthopaedic bedding or a ramp to help him get into the car 

Deafness in old dogs is common but often misinterpreted by the owner as confusion, stubbornness or early signs of dementia. As your dog ages, it may experience gradual hearing loss and although nothing can be done to restore your dog's hearing there are simple ways, like using hand signals, that can help your dog adapt.
In the same way, your old dog may slowly lose its sight, either due to degeneration in the eye or the development of cataracts. Again the slow loss of sight is rarely a problem for your dog if its home environment remains the same.  If you are worried that your dog may be blind get him checked by your vet.

This tends to be more of a problem for old spayed female dogs than for males but it can occur in both. A thorough check by your vet should be done to establish the cause which, in females is most often easily treated with oestrogen replacements.

The gradual degeneration of the kidneys is inevitable and can result in serious illness. With regular health checks by your veterinarian, early signs of kidney disease can be detected and treated, therefore prolonging the quality and life span of your dog.
Yes, it is possible for your dog to suffer from dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. If your dog seems:
  • confused and disorientated
  • starts pacing
  • irritable or snappy
Consult your veterinarian and have a general health check. Again, there are various things that can help your ageing dog,  including prescription diets!
Your dog may be old but still deserves your care and love. After all, loyalty doesn't age!