A pet at a venerable age is always sad. We understand that the canine age is not so long, and soon we will inevitably part with a four-legged friend. Unfortunately, we cannot influence the laws of nature, but making the senior age of our dog comfortable, safe and cozy is quite a feasible task for every loving owner.
There is more than enough information on how to care for a small puppy, but there is not so much information on how to care for a senior dog. In this article, we will try to fill in the gaps and tell you what should be paid attention to all owners of senior dogs.
Unfortunately, the years have not spared our loyal friends, and they age much faster than we would like.
When a dog is considered senior?
The age at which a dog can be considered elderly depends on the average life span, and therefore on the size of the animal. Based on statistics, it is assumed that:
- In giant breeds (over 45 kg) senior age begins early – already at 5–6 years;
- For large (23–45 kg) and medium (9–22 kg) breeds, maturity ends at 7–8 years and 9–10 years;
- Small and miniature dogs (up to 9 kg) age later – after 10–12 years.
The figures given are a conditional age line that separates maturity and the senior age. The aging process does not occur instantly, but the owner may already notice such external signs as:
- Change in the type of wool – dry / excessive fat content, gray hair, bald patches;
- Deterioration in muscle tone – sagging abdomen and back;
- A gradual decrease in appetite, fastidiousness in food;
- Slowness, decreased physical activity;
- Changes in character – aggressiveness turns into grumpiness, good nature – into lethargy / laziness.
Health impacts on senior dogs
Behavior and character
Senior dogs usually behave more sedate and with great dignity, become conservative in their habits, therefore they can hardly endure a change of environment. They can become naughty, irritable, grumpy. Especially often the character deteriorates in dogs suffering from serious diseases, experiencing discomfort and constant pain.
Some senior dogs become shy, fearful, insecure. Others, on the contrary, hurt young dogs, trying to maintain a leading position.
In relation to their owners, dogs become more intrusive, jealous, resentful, can withdraw into themselves and withdraw from communication. Spending most of the day half asleep, at night “old men” stagger around the apartment because of insomnia.
Dogs are extremely difficult to endure emotional and physical overload, stress is simply destructive for them. There are cases when a rather vigorous dog became decrepit and helpless after suffering stress (loss of the owner, car accident, etc.).
Senior dogs and diseases
In senior dogs, it is often impossible to draw a line between age-related changes and pathology. Due to a decrease in the function of the immune system, the symptoms of diseases appear “pale” and the owners do not always pay attention to them in a timely manner. But even harmless symptoms in an old dog may indicate the development of serious diseases.
Some dogs become pronounced meteopaths, their health is determined by weather conditions, which can also mislead the owners (the malaise is attributed to the weather). By old age, animals acquire a whole “bouquet” of chronic diseases. This must be taken into account when selecting and prescribing drug therapy, so as not to upset the delicate balance in the aging body.
Drug sensitivity often changes. The dosage of even the most harmless drug should be selected taking into account age, since intoxication may occur due to a decrease in liver and kidney function.
Note! A senior dog needs frequent veterinary examinations to avoid seeing the onset of the disease. Every owner should be aware that deafness and blindness often develop in dogs in old age.
Many older dogs, especially large ones, suffer from diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Usually, the owners notice that the dog has difficulty getting up and down, awkwardly turns around, hardly climbs and descends stairs, easily loses balance.
Exercise is necessary for a senior dog to maintain muscle tone and joint flexibility, but the attitude to walking should be reasonable. In good weather, you can linger outside. However, one should not be led by dogs that have retained their temperament and playfulness until old age. It is one thing to please the dog, it is another thing not to calculate its strength and bring it to exhaustion. It should be remembered that the ligaments become less elastic with age, and the bones become more fragile. Even minor injuries heal very badly, so you need to watch the dog carefully while walking. After playing or running into other dogs, a senior dog may complain about its legs or spine. In addition, overexertion while walking is fraught with weakness, attacks of cardiac arrhythmias and shortness of breath.
During cold weather, it is better to walk large dogs on a harness and a leash. If your dog’s legs are parted and he starts to fall, you can support him and soften the blow.
After eight years, the dog’s visual acuity decreases. This may be due to various diseases: glaucoma, atrophy of the retina and optic nerve, but most often – with age-related changes in the lens. A barely noticeable, light bluish “haze” in the dog’s eyes speaks of the incipient cataract. To suspend the process, eye drops are used: katachrom – oftan, taufon 1-2 drops 2-3 times a day for long courses. With the developed cataract, surgery is indicated. If this is not possible, then the blind dog is walked only on a leash, along a familiar route. At home, so that the dog is not injured, do not leave dangerous objects in its path.
A decrease in visual acuity can occur without visible changes. Then this is indicated by such signs as the dog’s unwillingness to walk in the dark, caution, overcoming with difficulty or with a “stock” of minor obstacles,
Blindness of only one eye can lead to rather unexpected behavioral reactions – fright or aggression towards familiar dogs that suddenly appear from the side of the sore eye. Or the dog suddenly does not “fit” into the opening of a door or gate.
Care rules for a senior dog
The length and quality of life of a dog depends on many circumstances, but the main thing is proper care and concern of the owner. It is in relation to a senior pet that one can judge a person’s attachment to his dog.
Senior dogs are already a health-vulnerable category of animals, as are puppies, and pregnant dogs, and lactating bitches. A feature of senior dogs is the need for an easily digestible food, which:
- Could be easy to chew (older dogs often have problems with teeth and gums);
- Would allow weight control (senior dogs are often obese, which is an additional risk factor for them);
- Suitable for sensitive digestion (even healthy aged dogs may have problems with the normal functioning of the digestive tract);
- Would provide additional nutrition for joints and ligaments (arthritis is the scourge of old dogs).
You need to choose food from trusted brands, in the lines of which there is food developed for the needs of adult and senior animals. Is a trade mark whose reputation allows us to call it one of the leaders in the animal feed market.
Dogs are like people. The more stress factors any living organism is exposed to, the more chances it has for a longer life.
Our beloved dogs are no exception.
Dogs experience stress when they are hungry, when they have to endure heat, extreme cold, severe pain. It is very difficult for any dogs to endure separation from their owners. The older your dog is, the more serious consequences these circumstances can have for him.
Try to minimize any physical and psycho-emotional stress for your pet. If possible, protect him from the intrusive attention of strangers, postpone moving to another city, go to his dacha during repairs in his apartment, do not let younger and more energetic dogs bully him – in a word, create conditions for his comfortable life. With all his dedication, he definitely deserves this attitude on your part.
No dampness, sudden temperature changes and drafts
Do not let your dog lie in drafts if you keep it in the yard – let it in the house during the cold season, create conditions under which the dog can hide from the heat, and make sure that your pet is not in a damp room for a long time.
With age, immunity in animals, like in humans, weakens, and each additional unfavorable factor will negatively affect the health of the dog.
Colds, coughs, neuralgia, sore joints – these are just a few of the consequences of prolonged exposure to dampness or draft.
No jumping from heights
Musculoskeletal problems are common in almost all senior dogs. Lameness, slow movements, pain caused by arthritis and other degenerative changes in the joints are ways to poison the life of any senior dog.
To help your senior dog get through this period, you need to be very careful with the stress – remember when as a puppy you did not let your dog run down the stairs? Now, in the same way, you need to protect the senior dog from sudden movements, jumping from great heights and other potentially dangerous situations.
Too much stress on the joints and ligaments can lead to the aggravation of existing problems.
Owners of large dog breeds (Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Labrador, Bullmastiff, St. Bernard) need to be especially careful – due to the large weight, the load on the joints remains significant.
This is one of the reasons why a dog should not be obese.
No excess weight
But not only problems with joints are fraught with extra pounds in dogs. This is also an extra burden on the heart and other internal organs of the dog, which are forced to work intensively.
Therefore, stop feeding your dog unhealthy treats and table-feeding. If you want to pamper your pet with something, pick up special treats and watch the calorie content of her diet. If necessary, and after consulting a veterinarian, make adjustments to her menu. Dry food from well-known brands, including Hills, have in their line of food for weight control. Perhaps it makes sense to transfer your pet to such food.
Preventive examination of a senior dog
First of all, let’s talk about preventive examinations: it is advisable for senior dogs to carry out them much more often than young ones. It is advisable to do these three to four times a year. A routine examination of a senior dog is no different from a routine examination of a young dog. Most dogs, especially large breeds, suffer from diseases of the musculoskeletal system in old age, and this should be given special attention. Take your pet to an orthopedic doctor twice a year.
If you notice any unusual changes in your aging dog’s behavior, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Vaccinating a senior dog
As in youth, an aging dog needs routine vaccinations and deworming. But in the case of senior dog, even deworming must be carried out under the supervision of a specialist. The veterinarian can cancel vaccination or deworming, based on the results of the tests and the diagnostic measures taken.
The idea that dogs after 9 years of age are not vaccinated is a myth.
Senior dog teeth
Teeth often deteriorate in older dogs, so regular oral examinations and tooth brushing should be done. Your dentist can help you with this. Even young dogs often suffer from diseases such as tartar growth and periodontal disease. This can lead to overgrowth of pathogenic microflora, foul odor, inflammation and tooth loss.
Senior dog hair
With age, the coat of the dog changes, as well as the fermentation of the skin. The coat becomes dull and brittle, shedding increases. An unpleasant odor and dermatoses of various kinds may occur. Examine your dog’s skin daily for redness and lumps – senior dogs are prone to new growths. Regularly you need to comb and bathe the dog according to the recommendations for this breed.
“Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well.” –Bonnie Wilcox