Senior dogs are the most loving of all, but it’s best to understand when a dog is considered a senior. And, it’s not that simple. Why? Well, certain dog breeds only have a lifespan of up to 10 years, while others like the tiny Chihuahua can live double the years. With research, and discussing the topic with your veterinarian, you can better understand when your dog will reach its golden years. However, it is crucial to work alongside the vet to determine a suitable health plan for your older pet and how to provide the proper senior dog care.
Senior Dog Care
Like humans are afflicted with various diseases and conditions, senior dogs will experience problems with their health. Common health concerns in dogs include heart disease, cancer, thyroid issues, and osteoarthritis, to name a few.
Regular checkups are critical for good health. Of course, these don’t slow down or end when a dog reaches his senior years, and alternatively, they become even more crucial. Your vet may suggest a geriatric exam which includes a blood test, a fecal exam, and other necessary tests. At this point in a dog’s life, geriatric health exams are best run twice annually — designed to detect any developing problems as early as possible.
Be vigilant in ensuring your senior dog’s health. Note any changes in his attitude, behavior, stamina, or appetite. However, do not delay a visit if you do notice any changes, and instead, act quickly.
Pet Geriatric Health Exams
The veterinarian relies heavily on laboratory testing. Although an added expense, any subtle changes may help to enlighten the vet and help him identify diseases in their early stages so that they can be treatable or controlled. Other essential tests include measuring the CBC to determine the number of red and white blood cells, and the number of platelets, which help diagnose various health conditions, including leukemia or infections. The blood chemistry panel gives your vet information respecting the organs through measuring chemical elements, electrolytes, and enzymes. A urinalysis is necessary to check for diabetes, renal problems, or any blood in the urine, for example. The fecal examination detects parasitic infections, internal bleeding, digestive problems, and more.
Other tests may also be ordered by the veterinarian if he suspects other issues, and also simply to be on the safe side, monitoring your dog’s health to the best of his ability. This may incorporate x-rays, cultures, and the like.
Age-Related Cognitive and Behavior Changes in Dogs
Most dog owners will notice their dogs age through the manner in which they slow down. They may not be easily stimulated; they may not hear or see well, and so on. So, it is vital to keep your dog active through daily walking and play time that’s appropriate for his physical condition. Unfortunately, like human seniors, some dogs may display mental deterioration as well. These are known as age-related cognitive and behavior changes. In general, they are subtle. Voice any of your concerns to the vet early on to help control mental deterioration before these age-related issues become more severe.
The Noticeable Physical Changes in Senior Dogs
It’s easy to see when a dog has reached his senior years. For one thing, he slows down, he isn’t as easily stimulated, and often, you’ll notice gray hairs. This also means your dog is no longer able to fight infections as when he was younger. Keep in mind it will also take much longer to heal, so talk to the veterinarian as soon as you notice or sense these changes taking place.
With older dogs, it seems their kidneys are the first systems to deteriorate. Quite simply, they may not be able to control their bladder over long periods of time. Therefore, dribbles of urine are not uncommon, although stressful for everyone. Incontinence can be treated, however, whether it is kidney failure or diabetes.
Senior Dog Exercise
No matter your dog’s age, it is imperative for him to get some exercise every day. If denied, it will only result in a quicker physical deterioration in contrast to one that is physically active. This means reducing the intensity of the exercise so that it is in keeping with your dog’s abilities. A physically active dog will stay healthier and will not succumb to quick deterioration. Mental exercises will also help keep them sharp. Senior dog care requires both physical and mental exercises daily.
Senior Dog Nutritional Needs
Specific breeds require special formulations of foods designed with them in mind. Additionally, there are foods made especially for older dogs. Nutrition plays a vital role in keeping a dog healthy. As dogs age, and their level of physical activity reduces, so it’s not uncommon for them to become overweight. Obesity is a significant problem which can cause several other health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. The unique nutritional requirements older dogs need are different than those of the young pups, and these foods can help maintain a healthy weight while providing the correct balance of nutrients.
With varying degrees of pain, from chronic arthritis pain to acute pain resulting from infection or injury, your veterinarian will assess and minimize your dog’s pain at every visit. A wellness plan is essential for a senior dog, as his careful monitoring of his overall physical condition. Consult your vet if you have concerns so you can work together to make his life as painless and as enjoyable as is possible.
Look out for Trouble
Unlike humans, your dog will not tell you that he is feeling under the weather or experiencing pain. He will do so, however, in his own way. So it’s important to monitor your dog closely and see your vet quickly if you notice the following signals:
- A sudden decrease in appetite that lasts a couple of days
- An increase in appetite
- An increase in water consumption without reason
- Increase in urination without reason
- Diarrhea lasting upwards of three days
- Repeated vomiting
- Inappropriate stools and elimination
- Blood in the urine or stools
- Notable decrease of vision
- Gagging or coughing that’s persistent
- Excessive panting
- Abnormal hair loss and excessive scratching
Keeping a close eye on your aging dog will keep him healthier and more comfortable. Pay attention to the details of his physical and mental states and act quickly to prevent any condition from worsening. Senior dog care begins with you being vigilant.