Senior Dog Issues:
Senior dog health issues in many ways reflect those of their human counterparts. There is no exact way to determine when a dog becomes a senior. Dogs are individual in the way they age and the issues the senior dog has are individual as well. Regularly assess your dog to make sure its appearance and behavior are normal. Your senior dog’s health issues can be addressed with a little “TLC”.
Dogs less than 20 pounds might not show signs of senior dog issues until about 12. A larger dog may begin to show signs of senior dog issues around 8-10 years of age. Senior dog health issues often involve the senior dog being less able to resist infections and other diseases, and its organs becoming less efficient.
Dogs are living longer, increasing the likelihood of senior dog health issues not previously encountered. With the right care, love and support, it is not uncommon for our four-legged family members to live to 14 or 15 and even more. In general, mixed breeds and smaller dogs tend to live longer.
As with people, reaching senior age means encountering senior dog issues.
Your dog will start to slow down and lose stamina, and may require a new diet and exercise plan to stay at the right weight and optimum health. Body composition regarding amount of muscle and fat tissue tends to change in senior dogs, and they may therefore need up to 20% fewer calories. Obesity can be one of the senior dog health issues that need to be addressed due to the dog being less active and therefore burning fewer calories.
Care must be taken in exercising senior dogs.
Check your dog's weight by feeling the ribs with the flat of your palm. If it’s hard for you to feel the ribs, your dog needs to lose weight. You can help with weight loss by feeding a calorie-controlled diet and possibly by giving more exercise.
If the ribs feel very prominent or you can easily see the ribs on a short-haired dog, it needs to gain some weight. Have your veterinarian check for any underlying health issues affecting your senior dog causing the weight loss. It is possible that there is a loss of appetite because smell and taste lose their edge, or the digestive tract becomes less efficient. You may need to feed a very good-tasting, highly-digestible diet. Feed small meals, often -- divide the day’s food into two to four small meals.
Warm your dog’s food gently to body temperature. Leave the food down for about 10-15 minutes, and then remove it. Your senior dog is more apt to eat fresh food.As with people, senior dog health issues involve susceptibility to many of the same diseases. Arthritis may cause the dog to be less active because it becomes harder to move. Your senior dog must still get out for controlled exercise, even with arthritis. Your veterinarian can prescribe medications to make it more comfortable.
A very important senior dog health issue is the dog's teeth and gums. Regular brushing of the teeth with a special dog toothbrush and toothpaste will go a long way to avoid health issues involving gum disease that can cause your senior dog to lose its teeth. Gum disease may cause a more serious problem if bacteria enter the bloodstream through inflamed gums. Alert your veterinarian if the gums look unhealthy.
If a senior dog suddenly becomes incontinent or starts to urinate more frequently, problems with the nervous system controlling the bladder could be the cause, or it could be due to disorders of the urinary tract, prostate, or other body systems. Consult your veterinarian.
Senior dog health issues can include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a canine version of Alzheimer’s disease known as canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) that causes disorientation. The dog you love may become forgetful and confused, and it can be heartbreaking.
If your senior dog exhibits health issues such as unusual changes in behavior, tell your veterinarian so a proper assessment can be done. Symptoms of CDS will not show up during a routine physical exam. Diagnosis of CDS can only be made after physical reasons for such changes have been ruled out. This devastating, progressive disease causes behavioral changes that disrupt the lives of dogs and of the people who cherish their companionship.
Veterinary treatment, plus love and patience, can give a senior dog extra quality time and a fuller, happier life. There is no cure for CDS, but drug treatment can provide a better quality of life and slow the progression of symptoms.
If you notice your senior dog exhibits health issues such as disorientation, unresponsiveness, uncontrolled urination, increased water intake, frequent urination, breathing problems, coughing, fatigue, tumors, lumps, eye changes, stiff or lame movement, especially after naps, or bad breath, please contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can properly address the health issues affecting your loved senior dog.
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