As with people, dogs slow down with age. You may notice subtle changes in their personality or attitude, some may start to slow down on walks, become hard of hearing or even forgetful of routines they have had for years. Some changes are all part of the ageing process and are not cause for concern, but some changes can signify pain or illness and will need to be checked with a vet. Caring for an older dog can be very rewarding and does not need to be life-changing, but small changes can dramatically improve the quality of life in an elderly dog.
This is dependent on breed, as all breeds have different life spans, much of which is dependant on size – bigger dogs will age faster. However, most breeds are now considered senior from the age of seven. Many vets now provide senior clinics with a Veterinary Nurse to help you understand and recognise subtle changes your dog may start to show, that can indicate intervention may be needed. Just as people get older, we sometimes require additional supplements for support, supplements are also available for our pets.
As a dog gets older the body starts to slow down and requires less energy – this is why at times there is a tendency for a dogs weight to increase in their older years. Hearing and sight start to deteriorate and their coat might not seem as shiny as it once was. Internally, organs may not work as efficiently as they once did and blood tests may be required to see how they are functioning.
However, due to the progression in Veterinary medicine, we are now able to support dogs through most of these changes and if a good quality of life remains dogs can go on to live many happy and healthy years.
Animals can also suffer from arthritis; you may notice your pet’s joints are more stiff in the morning or slightly worse during the colder weather. All joint issues should first be checked by a vet and an appropriate treatment plan can be decided, this may be in the form of medication, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy or even laser therapy.
You can help your pet at home by
- Ensuring they maintain a healthy weight – excess weight puts additional strain on joints that are already under increased pressure.
- Adjust walks according to your pet – A dog that once enjoyed a long 1 hour walk on pavement may now prefer and benefit from 3 shorter walks on softer ground.
- Padded bedding – support joints with extra padded bedding, older large breeds can be prone to pressure sores on their elbows or hocks. A good strong pet bed like the Pet Fusion Ultimate Lounge has been designed to provide support and comfort for older animals.
- Consider a pet ramp for a dog that frequently needs to be transported in a car, this will remove added pressure on joints when jumping in and out, and also save your back from lifting!
- Keep an eye on nails – dogs that are no longer as active do not wear down their nails as they used to and ingrown nails are extremely painful. VIP’s provide an at home claw clipping service to take the stress out of additional vet visits.
This will differ for each dog, some dogs will be completely fine on the diet they have been fed their entire life and some will need to change. Many food companies now provide ‘senior diets’ these are carefully formulated for the older dog in order to support life stage changes and this may be something that is worth looking into. If your pet is losing weight with age a Veterinary Surgeon should be consulted to see if an underlying condition may be causing this. Always remember that diets should be slowly changed over a period of at least a week, a sudden change in diet may cause stomach upsets.
We would always advise that your dog visits the vet at least once yearly for a full examination, however in older pets, it is advised every six months, this will be a good opportunity to have their weight monitored, heart checked as well as have any concerns or queries questioned.
Always seek Veterinary attention if –
- Your Dog is eating less.
- Your Dog is drinking more than usual.
- Your Dog is losing weight.
- You find any lumps or bumps.
- Your Dog is becoming disorientated.
- Your female Dog has any discharge from her vagina.
- Your dog has any stiffness or lameness.
- Your Dog has a cough.
We are extremely lucky that today our pets are living for much longer than they used to but with this, we always need to ensure they are supported through their older years so they can be as happy and as comfortable as all their lives.