If there's one thing that all pet-owners wish for, it's for their dogs to live as long as they do. But our furry friends reach their golden years too, much to our dismay. All dogs age differently, and some breeds live longer than others.
Signs of aging in dogs can be subtle and easily missed but being aware could help you catch health issues early. Being familiar with these signs will help you better understand your dog. It will also enable you to learn what needs to be done at this stage of your dog's life.
Bad breath as a sign of aging will probably be the first sign you encounter. Dogs aren't exactly known to have minty-fresh breath, but if their breath starts to smell a little worse than usual, don't push it aside. Dogs as young as three years old develop bad breath, and it's usually a sign of dental disease. As soon as you notice a change in your dog's breath, bring them to the vet. The longer their teeth are allowed to decay, the worse it will be for your dog. Some cases even go as far as extracting their teeth.
Tooth extractions are considered major surgery, and most elderly dogs can't handle going under. Brush your dog's teeth regularly to avoid plaque buildup and tooth decay.
It's a known fact that dogs have a sense of smell 40 times more powerful than a human — which can be attributed to the 300 million olfactory sensors in their noses. As they age, a dog’s sense of smell starts to dull, and they're not nearly as sensitive as they were a couple of years back. Police dogs, for example, can't sniff out what they're trained to sniff out anymore.
Like people, dogs get cataracts. Have you ever noticed that the older your dog gets, the clumsier they become? They start to trip and fall during playtime, some of them even start walking into walls. Also, some dogs can go deaf.
As our furry friends age, we may mistake their loss of senses for them being stubborn. But in truth, they're not as receptive as they used to be because their sight, hearing, and smell have dulled over the years. Try not to get frustrated with them because they might get stressed out, and stress is no good for an aging dog.
Be sure to put your dog's water and food bowl in the same place, where they can find it. Doing this makes their life a little bit easier for them.
As your dog gets older, you may notice that they get a little chubby. Weight gain could be a sign of a multitude of things like thyroid issues or slowed metabolism. If you feel that your dog is at a weight you are uncomfortable with, it's time to bring them to the vet. Your veterinarian may put them on a low-calorie diet and prescribe longer, slower-paced walks to keep their metabolism running smoothly.
Tempting as it may be to indulge your dog in treats, you need to lay off the kibble for a while even if they give you their best puppy-dog-eyes.
A dry coat, bald spots, flakiness, hot spots, hair loss, etc. are all implications that your dog is aging. Put in the effort to brush your dog's hair to stimulate their skin and hair follicles. And now is the time to treat your dog to more luxurious hair oils to keep their coats looking nice and shiny.
Some hormonal problems may even cause your dog's hair to turn white, but that's nothing to worry about because it just means that they're losing pigment.
Over the years, your hyperactive puppies turn into sleepy dogs who would rather laze around the whole day. Their energy levels drop so low that they turn into lapdogs overnight (no matter how big they are). Older dogs need more sleep and rest than puppies, and at times it's better for them to be lying down than to deal with the aches and pains they have.
Osteoarthritis is common in older dogs — cartilage within the joint experiences compression or damage becomes less smooth and results in the bone surfaces rubbing together. It causes discomfort to your dog, as well as further damage to the cartilage.
Most cases of arthritis emerge as a consequence of irregular rubbing within the joint caused by joint instability (e.g., after ligament damage), damage to or abnormal cartilage development, or damage caused by trauma (e.g., fractures). Like humans, signs of arthritis can often vary throughout the animal's life and result in the early onset of joint problems in older age.
At this stage in your furry friend's life, you need to start watching out for behavioral changes. Mild-mannered dogs may show signs of aggression and defensiveness while energetic dogs may start slowing down; some dogs even start to develop dementia.
Pay attention to how your dog reacts around children because the slightest thing could tick them off, like high-pitched squeals or a light tug to the tail.
Remember not to be dismissive of your dogs changed behavior; it could be medically related. Openly communicate with your veterinarian about how your dog has behaving lately because their behavioral issues could be managed with medicine.
Older dogs need more attention than puppies do, they get insecure about not being able to do what they used to, and it's your job to make sure they feel loved. You may notice that your dog is a little more affectionate than they used to be, and they will take any opportunity to snuggle with you.
Give in to your furry friends, because more than medical attention, they need your attention. Nothing wrong ever came out from spending more time with your dog.
If your schedule (and workplace) permits it, try to take your dog with you more often. It would be helpful for them to get out of the house every now and then, so they don't forget how to socialize.
Don't be surprised to find out that your once housebroken dogs start having accidents inside your house. It could either be a bladder problem because they're not able to hold in their urine as well as they used to. Or, it could be because they're disoriented and can't find their way to the lawn. Either way, try not to be too hard on your dog. If you notice that your dog's accidents are becoming more frequent, you can put a puppy pad inside during night time and train your dog to associate it with their bathroom breaks, and take your dog out to the lawn every hour (or more). Older dogs need more frequent potty breaks than their younger companions.
Our furry friends in their golden years aren't as sharp as they used to be. At this point in their lives, their cognitive processes have slowed, delaying their response time. Such as when playing fetch, you'd have to throw, run, and get the ball yourself before your dog even registers that you're playing. When this happens, you need to set aside time from your day to keep your dog's reflexes and response time quick. Simple tricks like tossing them treats or reinforcing basic obedience are enough to get their minds running. Even buying a new toy to figure out is intellectually stimulating enough to get the gears ticking.
Groggy and lazy as they may be, your dog will prefer to retreat to a cold and dark place to go to sleep. They become light-sensitive and would instead squeeze themselves under the couch to get some comfort than trying to doze off on the porch. Find a place in your house that your dog is comfortable enough for them to retreat into. Older dogs need their space, and you should give them one where they can't be disturbed. Otherwise, you'll be waking up to a cranky dog.
This isn't talked about very often, but older dogs have longer nails. Because they don't get as much exercise as much as they used to, their nails grow out. Sometimes, they even reach the pads of their paws. This can be extremely uncomfortable for them that they start picking at their paws. Trim their nails weekly because they could get snagged on everyday objects such as floorboards on garden shrubs. At this stage, they have brittle nails that are prone to splitting and breaking. File them down until they're in a blunt enough shape where you know they won't get caught on anything.
Much like in humans, a dogs hair and nails show what's happening internally. Healthy nails, mean a healthy dog.
As your pal ages, you may notice that they develop slight tremors in their legs. While tremors may be expected in older dogs, it may be a sign of pain and joint discomfort.
Adjust your dog’s exercise routines to accommodate their aching joints. Additionally, if you have the time, take them to the beach (or pool), strap a life jacket to them, and float around. You'll be surprised as to how relieving this is for their joints. Think of it as sensory deprivation, but for your pets.
Part of your routine check should be looking for lumps. Sometimes, the bumps could be a mole they developed, and other times they could be cancerous. Either way, bring them to their vet to have the lump looked at. Labrador retrievers, Great Danes, German shepherds, and Rottweilers have the highest susceptibility to develop cancer. As your dog's ages, be vigilant about skin condition and strange-looking growths around your dog's body.
This is to be expected with all aging dogs, even if your dogs are getting a little pudgy, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're getting any heavier. In fact, you may notice that they're losing weight and gaining fat at the same time. This can be attributed to decreased bone density. Be religious about giving them their vitamins and making sure they have a balanced diet. Larger breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands and Malamutes are prone to hip dysplasia, so make sure to give them their daily dose of calcium to avoid this painful condition.
While this isn't a sign that you should panic over right away, it is a tad bit concerning. Dry noses are a sign of dehydration, a simple fix to that is making sure that your dog has plenty of fresh water to drink throughout the day. Put their water bowls somewhere they can be easily found. Or if water bowls aren't enough, give your dogs a small bucket to drink from.
You need to understand that your dogs are going through a challenging physical and mental state. They, too, are undergoing an adjustment period. Don't be too surprised when your dog grows more dependent on you. There will be days that they cannot eat on their own and they will expect you to help them and nights where they want nothing more than to crawl into bed with you.
Always remember that a dog is just one part of your life, but you were their whole life. As our furry friend's age, they need nothing more than for us to love them extra. Give them the time they want, schedule more trips to the vet, and take as many pictures as you can, because you'll want something happy to look back on when they turn into the angels they were born to be.