Older Dogs & Health Issues: What to Look Out For
Aging is a natural part of life. As your dog gets older, you’ll likely notice changes in its appearance and behavior. Many of the physical changes that dogs undergo as they age are similar to those experienced by people. Although they are often normal and nonthreatening in nature, some changes might be indications of something more serious and that it’s time to visit your veterinarian.
Like humans, different dogs react differently to aging as their body changes and their metabolism slows. Some dogs will seek out more attention from you, while others might become more withdrawn or sullen. Activity levels will typically drop at this time as well.
Let’s examine some of the signs of aging that your dog might display and what they could be indicators of.
Changes in Your Dog’s Behavior
You might find that your dog’s urinary habits begin to change. Urination might become more frequent, or incontinence could occur, as evidenced by an increase in accidents. This could be a natural result of aging, but it might also be a sign of something more serious. Speak to your veterinarian if your dog develops issues with incontinence and be sure to increase the frequency of walks.
Your pet could start to exhibit difficulty in finding its way around because of joint issues. Arthritis is a common problem, as it is in older people. The effects can be seen in the occurrence of limping. Your dog might also begin to walk gingerly. Your vet might make recommendations for changes in diet that could mitigate the problems associated with arthritis.
Besides the physical difficulty of getting around easily, dogs might start to appear confused or grumpy. They might also appear lost in places they shouldn’t, such as their home or the local park. All of this could be an indication of memory problems, especially if they don’t respond as usual to commands — perhaps not coming when their name is called.
Issues of the Eyes, Ears, and Mouth
Vision loss is another common ailment in aging dogs. You might see their eyes begin to cloud over. Dogs might react with more aggression than they have in the past because they feel more vulnerable or unsure of their surroundings. This is especially true if their now-limited eyesight is accompanied by some degree of hearing loss. In order to limit its distress, avoid startling your dog.
You should always take care to optimize your dog’s oral health, but this becomes especially important as they get older. When examining its mouth, you might find that your pet has developed bad breath or inflamed gums over the course of time. You’ll want to maintain a good brushing regimen in order to lessen the chances of it developing gingivitis and tooth decay.
Skin and Weight Changes
Skin issues are yet another common occurrence in aging dogs. You might find that lumps have developed on their skin. These are typically not a concern, as they are often just fatty deposits. There is a chance, however, that they are a sign of something more serious, such as cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is as big a problem for dogs as it is for their human companions. Additionally, you might notice hair loss on your dog as it ages.
Changes in metabolism can lead to weight gain in older dogs. Obesity should be guarded against because it makes your pet more likely to develop serious issues like heart disease or diabetes. This is one more reason why a proper diet is so critical to a dog’s health.
A Look on the Bright Side
The physical and mental effects of aging can be inconvenient and worrisome. However, you can help to make a dog’s transition into old age much easier and maximize the amount and quality of time you’ll have with your pet. Take your dog to see the vet regularly and be sure to provide it with proper nutrition and exercise. Use vigilance to recognize changes in your pet so that if problems do arise, they can be caught early and dealt with more successfully.
Reward your dog for its years of companionship and help it to feel comfortable so that it can age gracefully. Keep the wagging tails and hearty woofs a-comin’!
We know your dog is a cherished member of your family, so our entire team shares a commitment to provide the best, most compassionate veterinary care for your dog. We offer a variety of dog services to in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock, TX area including vaccines, dental care, weight management, senior care, and more. Call (512) 251-BARK today to learn more!