As with humans, the older a dog becomes the more prone it becomes to certain problems and so the more care it needs from its owners. The dog may experience certain behavioural as well as physical changes and often the older dog’s nutritional requirements may differ. Veterinary and home care can also change with the age of the pet. It is important for responsible owners to be aware of all the changes which can take place, and how best to deal with them.
What Are The Normal Signs of Aging in Dogs?
Older dogs begin to have normal changes which owners should expect and often these should not lead to too much worry. The most obvious sign of an older dog is the condition of their coat as the fur becomes gradually thinner and more matt in appearance. Additionally, areas around the muzzle and eyes may become greyer and the dog will generally require more grooming to maintain a healthy coat.
Older dogs have lower immune systems which mean they are more prone to certain problems. If any of these changes occurs suddenly then this may not be a sign of aging but of a disease or nutritional deficiency. In these cases, calling the vet would be encouraged in order to find out as to what may be the problem.
As dogs age, they undergo both metabolic and body composition changes. As a result a dietary change is often a necessity for senior dogs to help them cope with the changes. In addition to this, a decreased physical activity will also be observed and this also calls for a new diet. Changes in diet should always be done gradually in order to prevent any digestive problems. A good method for this is to change the diet by around ten per cent daily.
What Diseases Are Older Dogs More Prone To?
Cancer in Older Dogs
Cancer, unfortunately, occurs in many senior dogs although certain cancers are more common than others. Such cancers can affect the kidneys, stomach, intestines and even the spleen. Additionally, lymphoma, thyroid cancers and skin tumours may also occur. If owners suspect their dogs to have cancer, the vet should be contacted immediately since the earlier it is caught the more likely the possibility of treatment and its success.
Osteoarthritis in Older Dogs
Canine osteoarthritis is a common type of arthritis found in dogs, especially in those that are elderly. This chronic disease consists of the deterioration of the cartilage present in the joints. Osteoarthritis leads to a loss in mobility as well as pain and discomfort around the affected area which become inflamed. Without the protective padding of the cartilage, increased friction occurs between the joint bones. Deterioration of the bone and soft tissue may also be seen to occur.
Kidney Problems in Older Dogs
Kidney disease needs to be a problem owners should be aware of concerning older dogs. The signs and symptoms of kidney problems include excessive drinking and urination. The dog may strain to urinate but be unsuccessful in doing so. The affected animal may even become very lethargic and weak. If this occurs, veterinary aid should be sought immediately.
Eye Problems in Dogs
Cataracts and Dry Eye Syndrome are eye problems which can commonly affect geriatric dogs. Cataracts is a condition where the outside of the eye appears cloudy and blindness can result. Dry Eye Syndrome occurs where the eye does not provide enough tears and if left untreated for too long can become irreversible. The signs and symptoms can include a yellow pussy discharge leaving the affected eye.
Incontinence in Older Dogs
Urinary Incontinence in dogs is essentially an inability to control urination. This can be a stressful problem for both dog and owner as the dog may be unable to keep itself from urinating in the home. Hormone imbalances can be a causal factor when it comes to incontinence in older dogs and it is only when the cause is detected that a treatment can be found. A weakened sphincter is also a common cause of this problem.
Obesity in Older Dogs
As dogs get older, it is not uncommon that they become more reluctant to move. As a result the excess energy from their diet does not become used up as it would have when they were younger. Of course, it is also possible that owners take pity on older dogs and tend to give them more “treats” as a result. Therefore, a change in the dog’s diet and exercise regime will be necessary.
What Behavioural Changes Can My Older Dog Experience?
Increased Sensitivity to Noise in Older Dogs
Older dogs find it difficult to get away from sudden sounds quickly enough due to the effects of aging on their mobility. As a result, loud noises can be extremely stressful for older dogs. In terms of treating this behavioural problem, gradual desensitisation is a preferable option. The important thing is to remain calm around the dog and ensure that any anxiety is reduced and prevented.
Increased Noise from the Older Dog
Owners will often complain that their dog barks or whines much more than it did when it was younger. This is once again due to the decrease in mobility on the aged dog’s part. As a result, the dog will attempt to grab the owner’s attention through vocalisation whereas before it may have run up to the owner. However, whining may be due to some kind of pain the dog is experiencing and so a trip to the vets to find the problem, if any, may be a necessity.
Separation Anxiety in Older Dogs
Older dogs may become less able to cope with changes such as owners leaving the house for a few moments. This is because with all the changes they may experience themselves such as a decreased mobility, hearing or visual impairments, can mean they rely much more on their owners being around. Often, leaving something for the dog to do, such as hiding a treat in a safe dog toy, can keep it occupied when it is left alone. Additionally, there should be no extra fuss when leaving or returning home.