begin to age, it is important for the owner to be aware of their pet's
health and changing needs. Dogs age at different rates depending on breed,
size, and environment and over all health. Signs of aging include deeper
sleep, graying fur - particularly around the face, and reduced energy level.
Noticing your dog's aging process is important as many problems can be
avoided with good care.
Basic care for an older dog includes regular grooming, monitoring of weight
and diet, examination of teeth and eyes, and protection from fleas and
ticks. Grooming becomes increasingly important because it helps stimulate
the production of natural oils to the dog's skin, which often slows down
An older dog's activity level often decreases as well. A reduction in food,
or switching to a senior dog food is often helpful in keeping the pet at
a healthy weight. An overweight dog is susceptible to a greater number
of health problems than an average weight dog. Also, the dog will be much
more comfortable at a healthy weight. At this weight, a dog will move better
and experience fewer aches and pains.
Check your dog's teeth and gums periodically for abnormalities. Tooth loss
and gum disease are not uncommon and may affect eating patterns. Catching
a dental problem early will usually result in a fairly simple treatment
and a bigger problem will be avoided. Also check your dog's eyes. Some
dog's eyes will start to get cloudy and vision may decrease. Keeping fleas
and ticks and other parasites off your dog becomes increasingly important
with advancing years. Parasites can carry diseases that are easier for
a young dog to fight off than an older dog.
Daily care also changes as your dog ages. Try to give your dog a place
to sleep that is away from draft and is not too hot or cold. A bed or mat
will help keep your dog comfortable. If your dog begins to exhibit mobility
problems, consider blocking off difficult areas such as stairs to keep
him from getting hurt. Keeping a daily routine will also help comfort your
dog. Don't punish your dog if he isn't capable of sticking to his housebreaking
or if he is agitated when woken up suddenly. This is most likely an element
of age and not a behavioral problem. Regular checkups with the vet become
more important, since older dogs are more susceptible to ailments and early
treatment can keep minor problems from becoming major ones.
Specific ailments to look for in older dogs are bladder and kidney problems.
An older dog may need to be taken outdoors more often, but if there is
a significant change or control issues when urinating have it examined
by a vet. If your dog is experiencing aches and pains; particularly after
sleeping, have him checked for arthritis and hip dysplasia. If you notice
your dog having trouble breathing seek help immediately. This is a sign
of a heart or lung problem. Checking for growths under the skin is important
too. Many dogs will have growths, usually they are fat deposits, but there
is a potential for cysts or tumors to develop. Catching these early is
imperative to your dog's health. With a little extra care and attention
your dog can have a long, healthy and happy life.