With their endless energy and enthusiasm, it is difficult to imagine that puppies will ever grow old. However, just like their human companions, dogs are subject to the effects of aging. Further, with life expectancies ranging from less than ten years to nearly twenty depending on size and breed, one year of a dog’s life carries far more weight than one year of his owner’s life.
As dogs reach the senior years of their lives they grow more susceptible to the perils of aging. Unfortunately you cannot turn back the clock; however, by properly identifying and managing age-related health conditions you can help your dog to feel his best well into old age. Following are the most common health conditions found in senior dogs.
As a dog ages, the cartilage that protects his joints wears down, potentially causing pain and impairing mobility. While large dogs tend to have a greater risk of developing arthritis, this common condition can also affect small dogs.
You cannot reverse arthritis; however, you can take steps to manage the condition and its symptoms. First, you should watch for the early signs of arthritis including stiffness, limping, and a reluctance to jump or climb stairs.
Second, by helping your dog to maintain a healthy weight you can reduce excess load on his joints. If your dog develops arthritis, you can speak with your veterinarian about pain management and diets formulated specifically to support joint health.
Dogs are susceptible to many of the cancers found in humans including bone cancer, melanoma, and and lymphoma. Early detection is the key to managing and treating these conditions. You should take your dog to the veterinarian if you notice any of the following warning signs: weight loss, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, lethargy, sores that will not heal, and lumps that appear and/or grow in size.
You should consult your veterinarian if you notice any of the following signs that may be indicative of heart disease: rapid breathing even with mild activity, coughing, difficulty breathing, and a bluish color to the gums or tongue.
Kidney failure is also common in senior dogs. While the condition isn’t reversible, in many cases it is relatively easy to manage with proper diet, medication, and fluids. Regularly scheduled veterinary visits will help you to catch early signs of impaired kidney function.
When compared to conditions like cancer and heart disease, dental disease may seem less worrisome. However, if left untreated, this incredibly common condition can lead to tooth loss, pain, difficulty eating, and even organ damage that results from an increase in bacteria in the bloodstream.
You can take steps to guard against dental difficulties with regular tooth brushing, treats formulated to reduce tartar, and diets created to promote dental health. If dental disease develops, you should schedule your dog for a professional dental cleaning.
If your senior dog seems hesitant to move around, or fails to respond to your calls, a loss of hearing and/or vision may be to blame. You can use visual cues, like hand signals, to communicate with your dog if his hearing is failing, but his vision is still intact. In the case of failing vision, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medication or surgery to manage the condition.