How to take care of your senior dog

When a dog ages, its body begins to change. Its organs become affected by the aging process so it is important to know what signs to look for in order to help identify any problems.

Is my pet considered old?
Not all dogs age at the same speed. It depends on your dog’s breed and size. There are also variations according to each individual and his way of life.

  • Small breeds have a longer life expectancy (14-18 years old) and they are considered to be senior around 10 years of age.
  • Medium breed dogs are considered to be senior by the age of 8-9 years old and generally have a life expectancy of 12-14 years.
  • Larger dogs are considered to be senior by the age of 6-7 years old (around 5 years old for giant breeds) and unfortunately have a shorter life expectancy (8-10 years)

As in humans, the aging of your companion is accompanied by changes in his body. For dogs, aging results in joint problems, weakening of the kidneys, a “lazy” bowel, a dull coat, poor dental health, and increased sensitivity to stress and diseases. Providing senior dogs with a food that has been specifically formulated for them is paramount when it comes to keeping them happy, comfortable and healthy for as long as possible.

Often times, a dog’s death has been attributed to “old age”; however, the weakening of one or more organs can often be treated with a proper diet and the help of your veterinarian.

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is very important to his well-being. Being overweight can cause serious damage to the body of an older dog. It participates in the onset of conditions such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, kidney failure, and heart failure that will seriously compromise the life expectancy of your companion. It is therefore very important to control weight gain in a dog and for this reason, it is recommended to give him a quality food suitable for senior dogs.
Osteoarthritis occurs due to premature aging of the joints. The osteoarthritic phenomena are triggered then aggravated by excess weight, lack of exercise, and also, if there were articular malformations apparent from a young age ie: dysplasia of the hip in larger breeds or congenital dislocation of the kneecaps in the smaller breeds. Osteoarthritis can make your dog very uncomfortable and if this disease is allowed to progress and settle, it can lead to complete paralysis. It is therefore important to detect this disease early by X-ray and then monitor and treat it in a permanent manner.
This vital organ can get tired with age, especially if your pet is overweight. Shortness of breath, fatigue – especially during warm periods, and a persistent cough may represent the first symptoms of heart disease. Be aware, however, that these days a dog with heart disease has increased life expectancy through an adapted lifestyle and medical treatment. Do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian if in doubt.
Kidney failure is the second leading cause of death in senior dogs. Overeating or an unbalanced diet can prematurely tire the kidneys causing kidney disease. There is currently no medicine to cure kidney disease so it is important it be detected very early, in order to slow its progression and minimize its effects. Symptoms include increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
75% of dogs over the age of 10 have dental issues, the main one being tartar deposition on teeth and gums. The teeth become loose, and the gums become swollen, red, and painful. Serious gum disease can cause kidney and heart problems, with dramatic consequences for the dog. Oral hygiene for senior pets is very important and so must be given special attention. Dental care such as daily brushing, specially formulated dental foods, or a professional cleaning, descaling, and extractions may also be required to avoid much discomfort.
Many dogs will start to show signs of hearing impairment as they get older. You may notice that they are less responsive to things that used to excite them like a knock at the door or a loud noise. The change will probably happen over a period of time and so may not be immediately evident. There can be many reasons for hearing loss, but for senior dogs, the cause is often degenerative changes in the nerves inside the ear.
Vision loss can also be a common occurrence in elderly pets. Most often, the culprit is cataracts. A cataract is caused by a change in the structure of the lens that appears around 9 or 10 years. The most obvious sign is the presence of a blue or white veil covering your dog’s eye. He will become less sure of himself and sometimes even bump into things. It is advisable to consult your veterinarian if you notice any vision loss.
Behavioural changes
Elderly dogs often begin to show behavioral changes. He no longer has the same appetite, he has trouble sleeping at night, but sleeps during the day, he may appear to be more aggressive, or he may be less inclined to go outside or to play. These phenomena are normally attributed to “aging”. In reality, it can be caused by circulation problems in the brain. Most of the time, your veterinarian will be able to offer a solution to overcome these problems and improve the comfort of your pet’s life.
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