Helping Senior Dogs & Monitoring Health
If you are already dealing with an aging dog, this information may provide some helpful tips. On the other hand, if your dog is still young, this information could help that younger pup remain in prime condition for many years to come.
Accessing Your Dog’s Health
As the years go by, your dog can start to suffer from one or more age-related issues. These include loss of hearing, decline in visual acuity, and reduced mobility. Problems with various organs can also happen, such as kidney disease or a heart condition.
A good way to catch issues early is to establish a baseline profile while the dog is in mid-life and still in good health. This would involve a yearly exam including lab work. Then the results of routine yearly health-checks can be compared to the baseline to see any changes that may require treatment or a more detailed testing.
Food and Mobility
Once you’ve got a baseline of health established, the two key issues for most dogs are nutrition and mobility. As your dog ages, therefore, becomes less active, his caloric requirement drops too. If you aren’t careful, your dog will gain weight.
As far as mobility issues, a larger breed dog especially will be prone to arthritis and other mobility problems, even if the dog doesn’t have hip dysplasia.
Keeping excess weight off is one way to help maintain your dog’s mobility. Not letting him get too sedentary by adopting some form of regular exercise routine will help. You have no doubt seen advertisements for joint supplements for pets, so you may be wondering if they really help. Unfortunately, many claims are either anecdotal or based on studies funded by the manufacturers of the supplements. However, there are some unbiased clinical studies that suggest glucosamine plus chondroitin can help with joint function. Research also shows that increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids helps with mobility too.
You may find your dog needs an assistive device like a Dog Lift Support Harness / Sling For Hind Legs. These products can help restore a sense of normalcy for both the dog and its owner.
Hearing and Vision Loss
There are some other issues to consider when caring for an older dog. While weight and mobility can be managed to a certain extent, hearing and vision losses are more of a problem. Like people, aging dogs experience hearing loss. If you notice a change in their hearing, it’s recommended that you have a vet screen for ear-canal inflammation or discharge that could be treatable. To test a dog’s hearing you can shake the package of his favorite treats. However, if the hearing loss is age-related, it cannot be improved. This loss happens when the tiny hairs inside the inner ear die or are damaged.
There are two things that cause “gray” eyes in dogs. One is a normal aging change in the lens that doesn’t affect vision. The other is cataracts, the same disorder that affects humans. A veterinarian can determine between the two, but if significant vision loss is a concern you can also consider talking to a veterinary ophthalmologist, who can screen for the presence of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). This is a genetic disorder that is present in a number of breeds, sometimes mixed-breeds too, and may not appear until later. Cataracts can be surgically removed, but there is no available intervention for PRA.
Another issue for older dogs can be behavioral or cognitive impairment.