Taking care of your senior dog

The trasition from a young pup to senior canine is a slow transition. Although it is natural, there are certain things you can do to help relieve or slow down some of the problems that come with your aging dog.

These are natural normal signs of elderly dogs, and are inevitable. Depending on the breed and size of your dog, the rate of aging can be quite different. For example at 10 years of age, a dog under 20 pounds is approximately equivalent to 56 human years. Compare the same aged dog (10 years old) that is over 90 pounds, and they are equivalent to approximately 78 human years.

Vets usually consider a small dog to be senior citizens around the 12th year. A large breed dog reaches the same stage around their 7th year. This is according to a report from Tuft’s University.

Using established guidelines to determine when your dog starts entering their golden years will help to understand any changes in behavior and health. Keeping regular checkups with your vet is also most important as your dog ages, as any irregularities can be found early.

Signs of aging and tips to help keep your senior pet as perky as possible are:

Difficulty getting up from lying down, or limping and difficulty moving could indicate arthritis. Your vet can help recommend supplements or proper modified exercise routines to relieve discomfort, and increase mobility. Usually the proper supplements such as glucosamine will relieve mild arthritis symptoms.

Although graying hair and drying skin are quite normal in aging canines, a nice daily massage and a regular grooming routine can help your senior pet’s skin condition improve. Also, because of the slowing down in daily routines for your senior dog, this can be your special bonding time set aside to make him/her feel special and also break up a boring day and give you both something to look forward too.

Certain breeds such a Labrador Retrievers are also known to be genetically predisposed to arthritis and hip problems. Every dog breed seems to have their own specific genetic downfalls that you should make yourself aware of when you adopt your puppy.

Excellent nutrition from puppy hood will help delay or decrease the speed of which the aging process proceeds. Your dog’s life will definitely be shortened if he is overweight because more diseases and illnesses are likely to be caused by obesity.

The dog’s environment should be kept clean and free of parasites, fleas, and ticks. This will certainly help increase the chances of a longer life.

Vision and hearing ultimately become diminished in your aging dog. Try not to startle your dog by changing his environment (moving furniture, changing the location of his bed, etc.). If his hearing is bad, using hand signals, and talking to his face so he can see you will help.

Sudden weight loss or loss of appetite needs to be checked out immediately by your vet.

Also a sudden increase in appetite, especially with no weight gain involved may indicate diabetes. Also a sudden increase in thirst is also a sign of diabetes. This also needs immediate attention from your vet.

Excessive panting in your senior dog may indicate heart disease. If this continues for more than a day this is another reason to get to the vet as soon as possible.

As with any dog, diarrhea and vomiting lasting more than a day needs to be checked right away.

And finally, and possibly the worst problems to watch out for in your aging dog are the behavioral changes. Just as when we deal with our elderly family members who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, dealing with a pet with drastic personality changes can be traumatic for both of your. Some symptoms to watch for are: Confusion, lack of attentiveness, disorientation, roaming in circles, barking for no reason, elimination accidents and being withdrawn. Also uncharacteristic aggression may start in old age. Try to keep your old dog’s environment as stable and unchanging as possible as this may help.

It is difficult to watch the deterioration slowly change our robust, vibrant and active puppy into a slow moving, tired and sometimes cranky family member. The transition to the “golden years” do not need to be traumatic if you watch carefully and notice the gradual changes. As they happen, taking care of them will minimize their severity, and your dog can be eased into senior status with minor problems. We can always enjoy our pets at any age, just as long as our expectations change with their needs.