When do we say that our dog is in his senior years? According to the Kennel Club, at seven years old your dog is already considered in his golden years. However, ageing differs depending on the breed and its size. For instance, a chihuahua at the age of seven is considered old, but a larger breed such as the Newfoundland may already be considered a senior dog at five years of age.
Reaching the golden years is something to be grateful for. It is always a challenge to take care of our furry friends so they can live long happy lives. We had already tackled some secrets from the world’s oldest canine to help your dog live longer. This time, we will discuss ageing in dogs so that owners can help give our dogs a better life that they deserve.
Signs your dog is entering his senior years
As dogs age, there may be changes that would gradually manifest along with varying causes.
- Weight changes The level of metabolism changes and the calorie requirement decreases. A senior dog provided with the same calorie intake when he was young can end up being obese. Some dogs also develop a reduced appetite as they age. Consult your veterinarian as to when it is right to shift from an adult to senior diet.
- Hair coat changes Grey hair may slowly emerge especially on his muzzle and around the eyes. As for its hair coat, it may become duller and thinner and may be susceptible to hair loss. However, if the changes are significant, it is advisable to bring your dog to the veterinarian.
- Skin changes The following are common for older dogs to develop:
Tip: Orthopaedic bed may help prevent calluses.
- Thickened foot pads
- Dry skin
- Skin Issues
- Mobility changes Difficulty in moving around may be caused by joint problems, arthritis, and/or hip dysplasia which are common diseases in senior dogs. The earlier the signs are detected, the earlier the prevention would be initiated. The good news is that there are home remedies to ease your dog’s arthritis and joint issues.
- Immune system deficiency Older dogs are prone to diseases. As such, it is important to keep vaccinations current and give vitamins recommended by your vet.
- Deteriorating eyesight and sense of hearing These signs may probably be mistaken as aggression or behavioural change, but in actuality, the dog is gradually losing its keen sense of sight and hearing. When this happens, the dog may feel threatened when being approached since he cannot sense it beforehand, thus resulting in aggressive behaviour.
Senior dog behaviour
What you think is a sign of a behavioural problem could mean different to your senior dog. It may be because it can no longer follow such rules and not because it purposely disobeys you. Such cases need to be re-evaluated instead of immediately resorting to punishments. The following are common behaviours in senior canines:
- Separation anxiety When your canine feels anxious the moment he senses that you are about to leave, he may have separation anxiety. With its deteriorating vision and hearing loss, it makes him more anxious when he is separated from his owner. It is important to learn how to calm your dog before leaving as he could engage in undesirable activities.
- Cognitive dysfunction Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. A canine with CCD may exhibit the following signs:
- Increased anxiousness
- Changes in sleep-wake cycle
- May forget house-training abilities
All symptoms can greatly affect his social relationships. If you think your dog has CCD, confirm your suspicions with a veterinarian.
- Aggression Your old pooch may behave aggressively for several reasons. It can be the result of an underlying medical problem or because he does not feel secure with his deteriorating senses. Resolve such aggressiveness by identifying triggers.
- House soiling This may have been the result of increased frequency of urination or defaecation due to some medical conditions. Vet consultation is important and the owner should be able to give the details such as the history of the colour, amount of urine or faeces, and changes in eating or drinking habits.
How to care for an old dog
The amount of love and care for your senior canine should not cease by getting new pups; if anything, it should even be magnified.
- Step up regular health checks This is a must for all older dogs and has to be done for at least twice a year. Routine checks must be performed but with additional checks on blood work, dental care, and other conditions older dogs are susceptible to.
- Watch your pet more closely for any changes It is important to pay more attention to your dog’s behaviour and physical changes, and list down serious suspicions and report them to your vet. Extreme changes could indicate critical health issues that warrant a visit to the vet.
- Pamper your furry friend Accompany your furry friend from his pup stages to his golden years. We may not like to think of it as his final years but we should acknowledge the importance of the remaining years. Embrace, snuggle, enjoy every walk you take together. Lessen his troubles by helping him with small things. Provide him with the most comfortable bed to sleep on.
- Give an appropriate diet for a senior dog Bear in mind that older dogs are most likely to develop digestive issues, kidney problems, and other medical conditions. A veterinarian is the only one who can accurately assess your canine’s needs. Do not change his diet without consulting a vet because it might lead to more problems in the future.