Old age in dogs comes with a different set of conditions usually associated with advanced age just like in humans. As dog owners, we might notice our dog is no longer eager to go out for a walk, finds it hard to get up from the floor, can’t jump on higher places, he can’t hear too well when we call him or he looks disoriented or can’t see properly. These are signs of old age and that is why it is important to get them checked by a vet every time we notice something is not right with them. Here are 10 common issues to look for in older dogs.
Just like humans, many dogs also develop arthritis as they age. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis seen in older dogs. This condition usually affects the weight-bearing joints (shoulders, elbows, knees, and hips) causing abnormal bone growth, wearing away of cartilage, and loss of lubricating fluids. These joint changes can cause a decreased range of motion, stiffness, and pain. Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition which means it gets worse with time. Although it has no cure, there are treatments that can ease the pain and slow the progression.
Aging also affects the kidneys, so it is common for a senior dog to develop kidney disease. The chronic renal disease is typically a gradual process that as renal insufficiency before progressing to full renal failure. This disease also has no cure, but there are ways to treat it, prolonging quantity and quality of life. The sooner you discover this disease in your dogs, the more you can do to slow the progression. Routine blood work can allow you to pick up early kidney change, that is why it is important older dogs visit the vet every 6 months. Signs of kidney disease include lethargy, nausea, loss of appetite, increase urination and thirst.
Deafness is another common issue with senior dogs. Nerve degeneration in senior dogs usually leads to gradual hearing loss. You can’t do anything to stop the deafness, however, there is much you can do to help your dog adapt. Thankfully, deafness in older dogs is quite easy to handle as it does not happen overnight. It will typically give you some time to adapt. Using hand signals is one of the deaf dog training methods you can try. You will soon discover that hearing loss hardly affects your senior dog’s daily life.
Just like deafness, many senior dogs experience a loss of vision gradually. This is because of degenerative changes in the eye and it is often caused by an eye disease such as cataracts. If you notice these changes in your dog, ensure you visit your vet. There is nothing you can do to reverse it, if blindness is because of old age. However, dogs rely less on their eyesight than you think. Just make sure you take it slow with your dog, if outdoors keep them on a leash, and try as much as you can to avoid moving the furniture in your house around. Once he knows the layout around the house, he will probably find it easier to get around using his other senses.
As dogs age, they may exhibit developmental changes similar to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in humans. At first, the signs are subtle but can become severe over time which can cause poor quality of life. Signs of dementia in dogs include confusion, disorientation, wandering/pacing, withdrawal, incontinence, restlessness, change in sleeping patterns, and more. It is important to note that many of these signs can also be symptoms of other diseases, so ensure you visit your vet to be sure. There is no cure for cognitive dysfunction or dementia, but there are supplements and medications that may help in some of these cases.
Cancer is, unfortunately, a common issue in dogs. Although younger dogs can also get cancer, it is more frequent in older dogs. The symptoms of different cancers vary, so it is easy to dismiss certain symptoms as mere old-age changes. That is why it is important to visit your vet for routine wellness screening. Diagnostic imaging, lab work, or an exam can easily pick up on something the naked eye may not see. The treatment options available for cancer depend on the type and stage of cancer. The sooner you discover it, the better your dog’s chance of survival.
Tumors and Growths
Older dogs also get various bumps and lumps. To rule out cancer, ensure a vet check your dog. Fortunately, many growths are fatty, moles, benign warts tumors. Generally, these conditions do not require surgical procedure except they are bothering your dog.
Old age changes to the nerves, muscles, and organs in the body can make it more difficult for older dogs to ‘hold it’ the way they used to. Incontinence in dogs can be a sign of different diseases, so it is important to visit your vet to rule out some things. There are some incontinence products designed for both male and female dogs that can help in this situation.
Dogs can become overweight at any age in their life cycle, however, the effects of aging make weight gain more dominant in older dogs. Obesity can complicate or cause health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. Decrease the amount of dog food you give to your dogs to prevent obesity in senior dogs. Also, ensure they keep up with exercise and if endurance is a problem, consider going for short walks multiple times a day rather than very long walks.
Heart problems are another common issue with older dogs. Congestive heart failure is the most common form of heart disease. This usually occurs when the heart cannot efficiently pump blood and fluids back up in the chest cavity, lungs, and heart. Signs of possible heart disease include unexplained vomiting, loss of consciousness, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, and coughing.
Call your vet immediately if you suspect your dog is sick. If you have any health-related questions, endeavor to consult your vet as they have examined your dog, know their health history, and therefore can give you the best recommendations.