How to Care For and Enjoy Your Older Dog

January 18, 2018

 

 

As your dog ages you may start to see signs that indicate your dog is not as spry as he once was. Perhaps it takes Charlie a little longer to come when called, or he starts avoiding going up and down those stairs. As your dog gets older and possibly less mobile, it's time to take preventative measures to keep them healthy, happy and active. Aging can also predispose dogs to certain illnesses that you need to be aware of. Here are some things you can do to be more prepared as your companion ages.

 

Routine veterinary care is particularly important now. Although some breeds are more susceptible to certain diseases than others, the following are some of the most commonly diagnosed illnesses known to affect older dogs in general.  Here is an overview of ones that you and your vet should be keeping an eye out for:

 

  • Nutritional Concerns. As with humans, keep your dog's weight in the optimal range is very important, especially for a geriatric dog. An overweight dog has many more health issues such as joint problems, arthritis, diabetes, and liver or kidney dysfunctions. Reduce the number of treats given to your pet and insure that he is well hydrated. Keeping your dog at their optimal weight through proper nutrition is critical, and is not difficult since it is something that you can control. As many problems, not just weight gain, start with gut issues, this is one area you would want to check first. 

  • Dental Disease. Dental disease and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) are common findings in the older dog. Untreated dental disease could lead to tooth loss, and possibly spread the infection to the rest of the body. Continue to brush your dog’s teeth and follow up with regular checkups.

  • Bladder and Kidney Disease. Dogs of all ages can get urinary infections resulting in involuntary leakage and accidents, but sometimes the issue can be much more serious - leading to bladder problems, kidney stones and even kidney disease. While urinary infections can be cleared up with natural UTI remedies and treatments, serious kidney issues need to be checked out by a vet. Dоg kіdnеу fаіlurе ѕуmрtоmѕ саn bе dіffісult tо recognize, аѕ thеу can mіmіс thоѕе оf оthеr urіnаrу trасt рrоblеmѕ. The most соmmоn оf dog kіdnеу fаіlurе ѕуmрtоmѕ is thе fаіlurе tо urіnаtе. If уоur dоg stops urіnаtіng, thіѕ is a serious indication оf trоublе, and you ѕhоuld gеt іt tо thе vеt as quickly аѕ роѕѕіblе.

  • Arthritis. Degenerative joint disease, also known as arthritis, is another very common issue affecting aging dogs. While it is to be expected that older animals tend to slow down with age, animals suffering from arthritis may feel much more comfortable if appropriately treated. Signs of arthritis in dogs include difficulty rising, trouble climbing stairs or jumping, falling on slippery floors, having difficulty getting comfortable or being restless at nights. Despite him slowing down, you should continue to take your dog out for regular walks and exercise to keep the joints limber. There are also many anti-inflammatory remedies that may improve your pet’s quality of life and comfort level.  
     

    One that we recommend is WALK-EASY, or WALK-EASY Extra Strength - an Anti-Inflammatory homeopathic remedy for Joint and Hip Pain.  This 100% natural remedy is very effective in reducing inflammation, relieving pain and improving your pet’s mobility. 

  • Eye Disorders. As dogs age, their vision worsens. Just as in people, some dogs are susceptible to glaucoma and cataracts. Sometimes, tear production lessens and the surface of the eye is not properly lubricated. Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is a common problem affecting older dogs, especially small dogs that have bulging eyes.

  • Bladder Stones. Older dogs tend to have an increased risk of developing bladder stones. Often, these stones are small in size and do not cause any problems; however, the stone could cause an obstruction if the dog attempts to pass a large stone that becomes stuck in the urethra. Periodic abdominal X-rays can help determine if bladder stones are developing in your dog and if treatment is necessary.

  • Endocrine Disorders. The two most common endocrine disorders affecting older dogs are hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) and hypothyroidism. Cushing’s disease is a disorder resulting in excessive secretion of cortisol resulting in illness. Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland, which also affects the health of your dog. The good news is that both disorders are treatable.

  • Heart Disease. The most common heart disease in the senior dog is chronic valvular heart disease. Thickening and irregularities of the valves of the heart may lead to abnormal blood flow within the heart chambers, eventually causing heart enlargement and heart failure. Early detection of this disease and proper therapy may slow the progression of the heart disease.

  • Diabetes. Aging dogs tend to have a higher risk of developing diabetes. Whether due to diet, poor insulin secretion or resistance to insulin, diabetic dogs can often be helped with proper medication.

  • Skin Tumors. Skin lumps and bumps are common findings on the elderly dog. These are not necessarily a problem, but you should monitor these lumps for changes in size or shape.  If you detect a change, notify your vet.

  • Urinary Incontinence. Older dogs may sometimes become incontinent, leaking small or even large amounts of urine when lying down or when sleeping. Medications, as well as some natural remedies such as Dog UTI and Kidney Support can sometimes help.

  • Prostate Problems. Prostatic infections, abnormal enlargement, abscesses, and cysts are all potential problems in an intact male. Tumors of the prostate; however, can occur with equal frequency in both neutered and intact males.

  • Cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is a significant problem facing the senior dog. Not all cancer needs to be fatal. Surgery, chemotherapy, even radiation therapy is available that can significantly extend your pet’s quality time or produce a cure. The prognosis depends on the type and location of the cancer.

  • Behavioral and Cognitive Dysfunction. As dogs age they may become more more stubborn, less patient and more irritable. Sometimes they will forget learned behaviors including normal urinary and defecation habits. Older dogs may sleep a lot more, and be less responsive to external stimuli. These signs may be related to underlying disease, or may be due to the gradual decline in their senses and cognition (thought process). Sometimes supplements can help with this.

  • Other Concerns. As dogs age, their organs also age and do not function as well as they once did. Various liver diseases are common in aging dogs, including cirrhosis. Another concern with elderly dogs is the potential to develop anemia. Whether associated with kidney disease, cancer, chronic disease or primary bone marrow disorders, anemia can cause your dog to be profoundly weak and, without treatment, may even become so severe that emergency medical help is needed.

 

Taking care of your older dog and taking him to the vet regularly helps give your dog a long and happy life. And just because your dog is starting to slow down, does not mean that you need to stop doing the activities you both love and enjoy.  An older dog can still enjoy going for walks, playing with other dogs and checking out new places and smells.  He may be less active, but his love and affection for you does not diminish with time.

 

 

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