You and your beloved companion have enjoyed a very long and fun-filled life together of unconditional love and many hours of fun. You have been through every part of his life from choosing him to be the right puppy for you and your family, to have watched him mature into adulthood. Help him to be trained into a well-mannered dog and having cared for him in every way and have taken him to the vets for all his scheduled checkups and inoculations. In return, he has been your best friend and given you unconditional love at all times.
Your senior dog will require some more special treatment as he matures and ages. You will realize that he isn’t so bouncy anymore and doesn’t dash around the house barking at every passerby or leap out of his bed when the doorbell rings. Like is all of us you cannot stop the aging process and so all you can do is make it a more comfortable time through those senior years. He can’t tell you every ache and pain and so you have to just keep an extra special eye out for any changes to his normal behavior in order to ascertain what he requires at what stage.
Due to less energy being used by your senior dog, fatty deposits will often increase and so you will sometimes see more fatty lumps under their skin, called lipomas. Due to the decrease in exercise your dog’s weight will more than likely increase or if he is not eating well then obviously his weight will decrease and so make him more weak from day to day. Loss of elasticity in the skin is one of the epidermal changes that may occur along with the lackluster of his coat and grey hair around his muzzle.
The last few months and days that you have with your dog still can be filled with fun and love right until the very sad moment that you have to say goodbye to him.
Knowing the Signs of Aging
Each breed of dog will live to different ages and in general smaller dogs do live longer than big dogs.
Some of the signs to be aware of when your dog reaches his more senior years:
- More intolerance of cold and heat
- Organ functions will begin to deteriorate
- Increased susceptibility to certain diseases e.g. diabetes
- A loss of strength and flexibility
- And of course, you will notice more grey hairs around his muzzle and eyes
- Bad breath, bleeding gums, and other oral problems
- Various lumps and bumps under the skin
- Increase in urination or decrease in urination
- Gaining or losing weight
- Noticing a loss in vision or hearing
- Change in moods
- Trouble with balance and therefore may become a little unstable
Just as it does the same in humans arthritis does the same in dogs. It is a degenerative disease of the joints that causes stiffness. The joints break down due to wear and tear and if your dog is affected by this you will see him take longer to get up from a sleep. It will take him longer to walk those once long walks.
If you suspect this in your dog’s joints then seek your vet’s advice. He will x-ray the affected joints and confirm a diagnosis. Normally an anti-inflammatory will be prescribed to relieve the pain and discomfort that he will be feeling. There are some over the counter pet dietary supplements that can be given to help with the pain.
Moving his bed into a warmer environment maybe away from any drafts under doors. Move his water bowl nearer to his bed so he doesn’t have to walk too far for a drink when needed. Make his bed very comfy with extra soft blankets but also supportive. Basically, do whatever you can to help him ease the pain.
You should still continue to walk your dog as keeping his body moving will always make him feel a bit better and hopefully will ease the stiffness.
Every lump and bump that you may find on your dog does not mean that it is cancer but it should be checked out by your vet for a proper diagnosis.
Cancer can occur at any age in dogs but is more common in the senior years. Abnormal cells grow out of control and therefore damage the healthy tissue and affecting the normal body function.
The most common cancers are tumors of the skin and subcutaneous tissue, bone, mammary glands, lymphoid tissues, mouth, and blood-forming organs.
On examination, the vet will either remove some tissue from the lump with a needle or perform a biopsy to determine whether it is benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Senior dogs frequently suffer from loss of hearing as the sound receptors in their ears degenerate thus causing this hearing loss.
If you think that your dog is not hearing you fully and just not ignoring you! then take him to the vets in order to have a check that he has got some form of ear infection or neurological disease.
If he has been confirmed that it is hearing loss then you can manage this by using hand signals rather than voice commands when required. It is also important that you keep a close eye on him when he is near roads etc. as he will not be able to hear cars that may pass near to him.
Dogs that are going deaf may be easily startled and so try not to produce loud noises or appear suddenly from behind him when he is not expecting.
Diabetes mellitus is an abnormal increase in blood sugar levels that is usually caused by insulin deficiency.
This is a treatable disease but is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured but can be managed. If left untreated then it can cause long-term complications for your dog, these include blindness, infection, pancreatitis and death.
One way of seeing the clinical signs of diabetes in your dog is an increased intake of water and going to the toilet and some weight loss.
If your dog is diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes then your vet will recommend adjusting his diet to include foods that keep his blood sugar level constant. If severe then you may also have to inject insulin twice a day.
If you are unsure but see some signs that you may think could be diabetes then always go to your vets to get some tests.
Some of the more common eye disorders that your dog could get in his senior years are cataracts, nuclear sclerosis, and glaucoma.
Older dogs are more prone to cataracts which form as a cloudy white spot on the lens of their eye. This will reduce your dog’s vision and triggers inflammation and an immune response. Most older dogs cope very well with the reduction in their vision and learn to live within the home. Your veterinarian eye doctor could always remove the lens but sometimes it is best just to leave things well alone.
When the dog’s lens structure changes this is known as nuclear sclerosis causing a cloudiness on the lens. It differs from a cataract as is does not affect the vision or become inflamed.
Glaucoma which is the term for when the eye has a build-up of pressure and so enlarges it. A condition which, if left untreated, can cause blindness. There are several medical treatments from which you can seek via your veterinary practice.
If you are aware that your dog is losing his vision then adapt his environment ensuring that it is a safe place to be. Try to avoid moving furniture around or introducing new items as your dog will get used to where he should walk and so moving things will greatly disorientate him.