Everyone knows “dog years” go by faster than human ones, but it can be a surprise to find that a pet’s senior status has crept up on them—and you. Breeds age differently, say veterinarians, but there are general signs besides a gray muzzle that a dog has entered their golden years. Read more to learn what to expect as your dog ages.
Signs of Aging in Older Dogs
1. Health Problems
Dogs are susceptible to more health problems as they age, just like humans. Common conditions in older dogs include arthritis and loss of bone density, muscle mass, and energy. This may lead to a disinclination to exercise, lack of enthusiasm for play, and weight gain. A veterinarian can help determine if actual arthritis is present in the joints as well as diagnose hip dysplasia, a hereditary condition common in bigger breeds. Kidney disease, cancer, and complications from obesity are also diseases found in older dogs.
2. Cognitive Dysfunction
Dogs can suffer from dementia, too, and their behavior will be the first clue. They may fail to recognize familiar people and animals, forget their house training, or seem unfamiliar with well-known places. There is no cure for dementia at present, although some medications can help slow the process. Ask your veterinarian if your pet is showing signs of confused or forgetful behavior.
3. Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is common and usually comes on slowly, which means you might not notice until it is advanced. Signs are a lack of response to verbal commands or unusual aggression if they are surprised by someone “sneaking up” on them. Teaching your dog nonverbal cues and making family and visitors aware of the dog’s disability help to integrate this aging issue.
Older dogs can become less tolerant of strangers, children, and the rambunctious games they used to enjoy. As your pet struggles to cope with aches and pains, hearing or vision loss, or even dementia, they may become more fearful or self-protective. Older dogs need a safe, quiet, and private area to sleep and retreat from busy households. Exercise senior pets in quiet, distraction-free places where they are less likely to encounter other dogs off the leash.
Since 2004, the kindhearted professionals at High Point Veterinary Hospital have served dogs in all stages of life in the High Point/Archdale, NC, area. They offer boarding, grooming, emergency care, and general wellness care for your dog. Their pet hospital offers full lab services, radiology, and a pharmacy. Call (336) 889-3832 for an appointment with a veterinarian or visit the website to learn more about their services.