Ageing is part and parcel of life. Our furry companions who were once a young and little puppy, is now moving into their senior years. Dogs of different breeds and sizes age at different rates. Large breed dogs are considered to be senior dogs at around age 5 to 6 while smaller breed dogs become senior dogs later in life at around age 8 to 10. By preparing ourselves to care for our senior dogs, we can ensure that they continue to live their best life, regardless of age. So, how do we know if our dog has aged? Here are some of the common signs of aging that we can look out for in our dog.
Physical Signs of Your Dogs’ Ageing
It could be hard to swallow that your dog has reached its old age, but we can provide them with the best in their senior years if we are prepared for it. Pay closer attention to their actions and see if they are displaying any physical signs of aging.
Cloudy eyes, sight loss or going deaf
Do you notice your dog bumping into furniture or falling uncontrollably more often than ever? They could be suffering from vision loss or an eye disorder. Just like humans, deteriorating eyesight is a normal ageing process for dogs. Your dog’s eyes could appear to be cloudy, a condition known as Nuclear Sclerosis.
As our dogs age, their metabolism slows down, thus making it easier for them to gain weight. On the contrary, senior dogs may also have less of an appetite and be less efficient at digestion, causing them to lose weight. While weight changes not only apply to senior dogs, they are more prone to unexplained weight changes compared to younger dogs. Consult a vet if your dog is experiencing drastic weight changes to make sure that there aren’t underlying conditions.
Increased/ Strained urination or incontinence
If you noticed that your dog is urinating more frequently and seems to have difficulty during urination, this could be a symptom of kidney disease or urinary tract infection which are commonly found in middle-aged to older dogs. Similar to urinary issues, it’s perfectly normal for your dog to have more accidents around the house as they grow older. Keep in mind that these are not intentional. Instead of reprimanding them, we can help them with items such as dog diapers.
Getting stiff and out of breath
Your dog could be a little stiff in the mornings or after getting up from rest. This could be a sign that they may be suffering from arthritis, a painful joint condition. Similar to when humans age, your senior dog may struggle more and get out of breath more quickly as they lag behind on walks. While this is a common sign of ageing, there is also a possibility of chronic lung conditions, heart changes, anaemia, or pain and stiffness causing reduced mobility. Consult a vet if you find something amiss.
Signs of Mental Ageing in Dogs
As their mental age declines, this would result in a change in a dogs’ behaviour. The most common signs stem from the onset of cognitive decline, confusion, a loss of energy and vision loss.
One of the most obvious signs of cognitive dysfunction for senior dogs is that they will have more trouble sleeping throughout the night. Just like humans suffering from dementia, our dogs are confused about their sleep/ wake cycle from day to night.
Having a lack of sleep, dulled senses and confusion could cause anyone to be more irritable and our senior dog is no exception. Though it could be general behavioural ageing, you should visit the vet if you are concerned about potential underlying conditions.
Your dog may be forgetting previously learned cues and habits. Canine dementia affects approximately 1 in 10 and 1 in 2 dogs over the age of 8, becoming more common as they get older. Coupled with decreased energy, this reflects a lack of interest and receptiveness with loved ones. However, this is not an indication that your dog has lost love for you. In fact, they never once stopped loving you.
How You Can Help Your Ageing Dog
Showering your dog with love and patience is of utmost importance regardless of its stage of life. There are several ways in which you can make your dog’s life a breeze, whether it’s about their diet or living space.
Keep their brain and body moving
Mentally stimulating games can help to slow down the progression of mental aging in our dogs. Games like finding treats around the house or a puzzle toy are a great brain workout. Exercise is also linked to brain health and mental wellbeing. Take a light walk and have a little socialization with other dogs. Follow their lead when it comes to the length of activities and don’t force them to overdo it. An active brain tends to be a healthy brain, and it will be sure to brighten your dog’s day!
Make sure they are getting the right nutrition
Proper nutrients can help delay the effects of ageing. Adjust their diet to meet their changing needs and ensure that your dog is getting the nutrients that it needs. It is important to keep their diet healthy and balanced. Having excess calories at this stage in life could lead to inflammation and weight gain, which can decrease your dog’s quality of life.
Keep an eye out for subtle signs of discomfort
Our dogs can’t talk, so it is our responsibility to pay more attention to their needs. They could be facing difficulties walking, lying down or when eating or drinking, all of these suggests that your dog needs a trip to the vet. It is recommended to increase health check-ups from once a year to twice a year, to help establish baselines for your pet’s health and ensure that any health abnormalities are found out sooner rather than later.
Creating a personal hygiene routine
Schedule grooming sessions according to your dog’s needs. If your dog is experiencing bowel incontinence, make sure to schedule additional baths. This would also be a good opportunity for you to check for new lumps, bumps, or areas of irritation. Take extra care with your dog’s oral care too. Ageing dogs are at an increased risk of gum disease and cracked teeth, which are painful, serious conditions that require medical attention. Brush your dog’s teeth regularly!
Make some home updates
Remember when we puppy-proofed the house to welcome our new family member? Now is the time to optimize your living space according to your senior dog’s needs. You may consider getting an orthopedic bed that helps support your dog’s joints and relives their pressure points. You could also get anti-slip rugs and place them over slippery surfaces to prevent them from slipping. We want to keep our dogs safe and as comfortable as possible while maintaining their independence.
Ageing changes are inevitable. We can only strive to provide the best care that we can, for our dogs. Ultimately, spending quality time together, appreciating every single moment, is the best way to enjoy your dog’s senior years.
If you are unsure, seek professional help. Your veterinarian will provide you with advice that suits your dog best. Any views or opinions communicated on this page belong to the author and do not represent the views or opinions of any other organizations. This article is meant for us to share our own views and opinions in general. Kindly consult a professional if would like to seek professional advice.
Adopted from sources
– Recognizing Common Signs of Aging in Your Dog. By Hillspet.
– Eight signs your dog is getting old and what you can do to help them. By Dr Joanna Woodnutt, PetsRadar.
– 10 Tips for Taking Care of a Senior Dog. By Laura Mueller, The Spruce Pets.
– Images from Pixabay.