Dogs age at different rates and time, for example, large breeds such as Saint Bernard's are considered senior between the ages 6 to 7 while toy breeds like Chihuahuas at 10 to 11 years.
Your pup goes through many changes during this period and you need to know what to expect.
This usually occurs as a result of brain aging, it affects their memory with many dogs not being able to recall commands or recognize their owner. It also makes other dogs more active and may appear they are staring aimlessly at objects, wandering aimlessly or vocalizing.
Others may become more docile and may not clean themselves as before or forget house training. It may also disrupt their sleep cycles with some staying up or restless all night and consequently sleeping all day. Anxiety and confusion are also common in older dogs.
They may become aggressive towards other dogs or clingy and codependent of their owners, dogs exhibiting such signs are often diagnosed with dog dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
This is usually a result of arthritis, hip dysplasia or neurological degenerative disorders. Dogs appear to have difficulty moving around, playing catch and prefer to lie down. In such instances, a visit to the veterinarian is encouraged to be able to diagnose the cause.
Majority of the causes are usually incurable and need to be managed terminally. An appropriate diet, as well as as a good dog joint supplement, can help in alleviating inflammatory signs such as joint pain and swelling. Owners can also opt to invest in orthopedic beds and ramps.
Weight Loss or Gain
As dogs age their metabolic rate slows down, they also become more docile making it easier for them to gain considerable weight leading to obesity, this can further predispose them to heart diseases, cancers, and diabetes.
Other dogs, on the other hand, tend to lose body condition as they age, this can be attributed to gum diseases which makes mastication difficult, loss of appetite or poor food palatability, sudden loose of weight is an indicator of ill health.
This results from neurodegenerative changes in the eye or eye conditions such as cataracts, dogs appear to bump into objects, fall uncontrollably and eyes may appear inflamed, degenerative changes are incurable.
Affected dogs are however able to transition smoothly as their other senses are heightened, in cases of cataracts surgical treatment helps restore eyesight.
Urinary Incontinence or Straining
This is usually an indication of kidney disease or urinary tract infections which are common in senior dogs, affected dogs may appear dehydrated, may drink copious amounts of water and have increased urination, the good news is that such infections are treatable and can be prevented by making changes to the dog's diet.
This is rough thick skin that forms on bony pressure points on dog's limbs joint, it is commonly found on the elbow joint, they protect the bony part from protruding after continuous impact on hard surfaces when dogs lie down, calluses can ulcerate and get infected, and should, therefore, be kept clean, owners should provide comfortable padded beds to ease discomfort.
Changes in Hair and Skin
As dogs age, their hair coat may thin out and appear dry, in some instances it may also turn grey especially around the muzzle and eyes, the skin and nose might becomes dry making it prone to skin infections. Providing a diet rich in Vitamins A, C and E as well as supplementing with essential fatty acids helps to restore the luster of the hair.
Loss of Hearing
This usually occurs prior to the owner's knowledge, affected dogs appear not to respond to voice commands and may startle when touched, they may also not react to loud noises, doorbells, sirens or other dogs barking, hearing loss is irreversible. Teaching dogs hand signals while young can be useful when they develop hearing loss.
Also, pay special attention to your dog's physical activity, there might be signs of joint pain which is also common in senior dogs. Don't wait for arthritis to slow down your dog.