As our canine family members age, they can’t complain to us about their aches and pains, or let us know when something is wrong. We have to pay close attention to the signs, which can be hard to do if you are caring for a senior dog for the first time. Not understanding the signs doesn’t mean you aren’t a loving, caring pet owner. It just means you need a little help to fill in the gaps. Here are some things that few people talk about when caring for a senior dog.
Research aging issues specific to your pet’s breed
Certain pet breeds have distinct inherited aging complications, especially purebred dogs. Mixed breed dogs will have more diversity in their DNA, which can help protect them from breed-specific illness. It’s still important to know the issues related to their mixture, especially if one breed is dominant over the others.
- Labradors and Joint Disease: This breed of dog is energetic and playful. Under-exercised dogs are prone to obesity, which causes an increased risk of joint disease due to obesity.
- German Shepherds and Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a deformation of the hip socket that can lead to arthritis. German Shepherds are also susceptible to an untreatable disease that causes paralysis.
- Dalmations and Kidney Disease: Dalmatians have a higher chance of developing kidney or bladder stones. This usually can be managed with a special diet or surgery.
Know the signs of common age-related medical conditions
Did you know that dogs can be prescribed common antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil? Or that, as they age, they can get dementia, just like humans? Aging for us and our canine counterparts can have some surprising similarities, such as:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Signs include vomiting, decreased appetite, weight loss, loose stool, frequent defecation, or bloody diarrhea.
- Arthritis: Signs include limping, lagging back on walks, yelping when being petted or touched, slow to rise, and an inability or unwillingness to climb stairs or jump on furniture.
- Periodontal Disease: Signs include bad breath, bleeding gums, lumps in the mouth, trouble eating and loose or missing teeth.
- Bladder Stones: Signs include blood in the urine (also called hematuria) and straining to urinate (also called dysuria).
- Age-related anxiety: Signs include panting, pacing, licking or shaking.
Know the signs so you can catch them and get them treated by a vet early. In some cases, medication can help or might be necessary. In other cases, though, you can make simple changes around your home to help your dog age with ease.
Take preventative steps early on
Sometimes all it takes is a bit of preparation early on to help prevent age-related illnesses. You can make your lifestyle and your home more supportive for your companion by:
- Taking your dog for short walks on a regular basis, so that they’re getting enough exercise. Consult with your vet about how often these walks should be taken. If you don’t have the time to keep up with the walks, hire a professional dog walker.
- Adding stairs or ramps to favorite places that require more nimble jumping. Easing their way a bit now can help keep their joints and bones healthy and pain-free.
- Purchasing an orthopedic bed for your pet to sleep on. There are many options out there that provide support, comfort and ease of rising.
- Adding rugs to hardwood floors, trimming your pet’s nails and the hair between their toes, and installing non-slip flooring. These can help prevent your dog from sliding when they walk.
Keep your canine companion healthy and happy during their golden years by accommodating their needs and paying attention to symptoms and signs of common age-related health situations. And, if you are ever concerned, never hesitate to call your vet.