As with humans, when dogs get older their health begins to decline and they usually need special care requirements. Unfortunately, dogs age much quicker than humans do, and their life span can range from 7 to 14 years. Generally speaking, large breeds have shorter life spans than smaller breeds do. Some of the symptoms of aging in dogs are similar to those in humans. Because dogs cannot communicate with words, it is important to be aware of the problem signs so that you can get help right away.
Keep a close eye on your dog as he ages in order to pick up on signs that something is wrong. You may notice that he tires more easily and can’t play as long. He may have trouble climbing the stairs, getting into the car, or finding a comfortable position to sleep. If a part of his body is hurting, he may guard the area, limp, or rub the area on a couch or chair.
More obvious signs include weight gain or loss, vomiting, stool changes, strong mouth odor, sneezing, body lumps, shortness of breath, hair loss, and skin color changes. At the first sign of illness you should take your dog into the vet in order to get care right away. Even without overt symptoms aging dogs should get a checkup at least once a year.
Most senior dogs will have dental issues as they age. Periodontal disease is very common, and the inflamed tissue around the teeth can become so painful that your dog is unable to eat. Dental issues can lead to bad breath, weight loss, an unkempt hair coat, and major systemic health problems. Pet MD recommends brushing on a regular basis beginning at an early age to prevent major dental problems. There are also dental toys and treats to help with dental hygiene.
Change the Diet
While feeding your dog a proper diet from the start is a good idea, it is especially important for aging dogs. High quality dog food is imperative, and you may need a special diet if your dog has kidney or heart disease. Make sure that your dog is not being fed fat trimmings, as too much fat can lead to pancreatitis in dogs. However, supplementing your dog’s diet with essential fatty acids like EPA and DHA can help improve mobility issues due to joint diseases.
Exercise is important throughout your dog’s life, and keeping an aging dog active will help maintain healthy muscles and joints as well as a manageable weight. Keep in mind that you may need to tailor the activities as he ages, such as shorter walks and lower intensities. If necessary, provide special accommodations for easier movement and comfort.