Aug 22, 2022
Everybody gets old, including your dog. That adorable little pup
that grew into your constant companion may be showing signs of
getting old, both physical and mental. Different breeds and sizes
of dog age at different rates. A large breed like a Great Dane is
considered senior at around six years old. A small dog, like
a Chihuahua, for
example, may not be considered old until she is seven to ten years
old. The more tuned-in you are to the typical signs, the sooner you
can help your dog age gracefully.
Physical signs that your dog is aging
- Cloudy eyes or difficulty seeing: Eye
cloudiness (nuclear sclerosis) can happen so gradually that you
might not notice it right away. While it’s a fairly common
occurrence in senior dogs and doesn’t affect vision, it may also be
of cataracts or other eye diseases, most of which are easily
treatable. Your dog may also start bumping into things or have
trouble locating a toy on the floor or other familiar objects. This
could signal vision loss.
- Horrible breath: While doggie
breath isn’t uncommon at any age, if your dog seems to
suddenly have awful breath, it could indicate gum disease, tooth
decay, or infection. The immune system weakens as dogs age and they
are not able to fight off infections as easily as they did when
they were younger. Along with a good dental cleaning, your vet may
decide to do blood work to rule out infection.
- Slowing down or difficulty getting
around: An older dog may have trouble with
stairs, jumping into the car, or just getting up after a nap. You
might notice weakness
in her back legs. While we all slow down as we age, your dog’s
mobility issues could be caused by arthritis or another
degenerative disease. Along with any medication or supplements your
vet recommends, you will have to adjust your dog’s exercise regimen
to slower and shorter walks or a new exercise routine. Swimming,
for example, is gentle on the body and many dogs love it.
- New lumps and bumps: Some dogs are prone
to harmless fatty lipomas, but these lumps under the skin are more
common as dogs age. However, any new lump should be checked by a
veterinarian to rule out a malignant tumor.
- A change in weight: It’s not surprising
that older, less active dogs sometimes gain weight and you may have
to adjust your dog’s diet and exercise to maintain a healthy
weight. However, you should also pay attention if your senior dog
loses weight. This could be the result of reduced muscle mass,
which is common in older dogs, or it might be caused by reduced
appetite, poor absorption of nutrients, or a digestive illness. If
your dog loses more than 10 percent of her body weight in a few
months, or even in a year, consult your vet.
- Incontinence or difficulty “going:” If
your dog suddenly seems to forget his housetraining or seems to
strain when urinating, these could be signs of a
urinary tract infection or kidney disease. However,
incontinence is not unusual in elderly dogs and there are
medications that can help.