Old Age in Dogs – What to Expect

Old age in dogs is something we don’t think about when we bring a puppy into our home for the first time.

But of course, having a senior dog is inevitable. 

There are many things to look for as our dog ages.  One thing is that they tend to slow down.  My little 9 year old dog has slowed down slightly.  He no longer walks as briskly as he did a few years ago.    It’s the only thing I see as he ages.  Most people think he is a puppy.  He is extremely healthy and never gets sick.

For the last 7 years he has eaten the best quality dog food.  I know that has really helped him.

So when is a dog a senior dog?  How old is a dog in human years?  The age in human years seems to vary by breed. 

I read an article in the Veterinary section of About.com.  It’s an excellent article and I recommend that you read it.  It’s entitled “Caring for Senior Dogs – What to expect as your dog gets older.”  The author is Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM.

Here is a quote from the article:

What things should I expect as my dog ages?
Each dog, like each human, is different. Here are some general things to watch for as a pet ages.

  • Slowing down – You may notice that you dog slows down some with aging. This isn’t always the case, but look for subtle changes in how s/he gets up, lays down, and uses stairs. Is there any hesitation or stiffness? Does a change in the weather (rainy, cold) make it worse?

Arthritis is common in dogs as they age, particularly large breeds. Arthritis can occur in any joint, most commonly the legs, neck and back (spine). There are many different medications available to help ease the discomfort of arthritis — see your vet if you notice any signs of slowing down in your dog. Another potential cause of slowing down is hypothyroidism, an endocrine disorder common in dogs. This condition is easily diagnosed and treated with proper veterinary care.

  • Graying around the face, muzzle – One of my dogs went prematurely gray at two years of age, but most dogs commonly show a bit of gray starting at middle age (5-6 years).
  • Reduced hearing – Is your dog hard to wake up after sleeping or does s/he become startled easily if you approach from behind? Hearing loss or deafness may be a reason for this. There isn’t a lot that can be done for age-related hearing loss, but a vet exam should be done first to rule out other medical problems, such as an infection, growth, or foreign body in the ear.

If your dog does experience hearing loss, take care to protect him/her from hazards, such as cars and kids that s/he may not hear (or see). Dogs do learn and adapt well using hand signals to come, stay, sit, and so on. It is a good idea to “cross train” your dog early in life to recognize basic hand signals.

Here is the entire article.

Have you ever dealt with old age in dogs?  You probably have.  It’s tough to see our furry friends age.  Please comment on any experience you have had with this.

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