A touch of gray on the chin or around the muzzle. Once-clear eyes becoming a little cloudy. A slight stiffness in what used to be a frisky gait. Any of these can be telltale signs that your canine best friend is entering the “golden” years. Generally speaking, a dog 7 years old or beyond qualifies as a senior. This varies, however, with the size and breed of the dog. For instance, smaller dogs tend to have longer life spans than giant-breed dogs. Other factors affecting how dogs age include body weight, nutrition, environment and overall health.
Dogs mature rapidly during the first two years of life, then again during the final third of their life span (5-7 years for every year of human life).
This process affects the level of professional veterinary care dogs need. Just as human infants require frequent well-baby checks, most puppies visit their veterinarians at least four times during their first year for “well-ness” exams and required immu-nizations. This parallel repeats later in life; just like their aging human companions, senior dogs need an increased level of care as they become more vulnerable to multiple health problems, and respond differently to stress, medication and environmental factors.
Signs Of Aging:
While some signs of aging, such as a graying muzzle and slowed activity, are easy to identify in your dog, others are more subtle. Most age-related changes in how your dog looks, acts and feels tend to be gradual. Therefore, it takes a watchful eye to recognize what may be early signs of disease or health problems.
Following is a list ot the most common changes associated with age-related diseases and compromising medical conditions. If you note any of these changes in your dog, please let us know. By working together, we can help ensure your dog enjoys the best quality of life possible throughout his senior years.
- decreased activity
- less interaction with family members
- less enthusiastic greeting behavior
- sleeping more – or sleeping during the day and being awake at night
- disorientation/confusion (getting “lost” in the house or yard)
- less responsive to verbal cues or name
- weight gain (or loss)
- changes in appearance (e.g., skin and haircoat; loss of muscle tone)
- changes in eating or drinking habits
- increased urination
- loss of housetraining
- limping/stillness ot gait
- vision and hearing loss
- dental problems (offensive breath)
- increased infections
- digestive problems
Remember: changes in your dog’s appearance or behavior can be a sign that something is medically wrong, so don’t assume your dog is just suffering from “old age” and can’t be helped. Keep a close eye on your senior dog, and talk with us about any type of change, whether it occurs suddenly or gradually. More about aging in dogs: