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Old age comes at different times for different breeds of dogs and different individual dogs. In general smaller breeds have a higher life expectancy than larger breeds. A strong, healthy dog will probably age later. Evidence also suggests that dogs that are spayed or neutered before six months of age ordinarily live longer than dogs that are kept intact.
- Regular checkups are a must for older dogs. In addition to annual vaccinations and checkups, talk to your veterinarian about special geriatric screenings for your dog.
- As your dog ages there are changes that you need to be aware of so that you can adapt their lifestyle to make their lives as happy and healthy as possible.
Metabolism slows down in the older dog. This means the dog requires less food to meet their lowered energy requirements. As a dog gets older they may also be less enthusiastic for pyhsical activities. Both of these factors can lead to weight gain in the older dog. It is very important to keep your dogs weight under control, as heart conditions, joint pain, and diabetes can all be influenced by obesity. You may need to alter the amount or type of food you are giving to your dog. There are some types of food specially formulated for the older dog. Discuss your dog’s feeding program with your local vet to be sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition for their age and activity level.
The most common reason older pets do not “get around” like they used to is arthritis. The wear and tear on joint surfaces restricts movement and causes discomfort and pain. A number of other anti-arthritic medications are available from your local vet. Dogs with arthritis still need exercise, this should be modified to your dog’s ability.
The most obvious sign of ageing in a dog is often seen in their eyes. The cloudy appearance in the centre of the eye which used to be dark in colour is due to a cataract. Cataracts occur when the normally clear lens begins to dehydrate and reflects light back from the eye instead of trapping the light and focusing it on the retina.There are many categories and causes of cataracts. Treatment for cataracts is surgical removal and may be done in one or both eyes depending on the specifics of each patient.
Glaucoma, an increase in pressure within the eye, can have serious consequences. Glaucoma can be controlled. Glaucoma is caused by a decrease in the amount of fluid that flows out of the eye. This is a serious disease and without proper treatment it can result in blindness. Glaucoma is one of the most frequent causes of blindness in adult dogs. The treatment chosen (i.e. surgery and/or medical therapy) will be influenced by what the goal of therapy is: to stop pain in a blind eye or to preserve vision. Medical treatment consists of a number of different drugs used in combination. Some are given by mouth and effect the whole body, while others are put directly into the eye and have a local effect. The drugs that work when the problem is first diagnosed may not work forever. Therefore, the intraocular pressure needs to be monitored on a regular basis so that the medication regimen can be altered to fit the needs of the patient. Unfortunately glaucoma cannot be cured, only controlled. When medical treatment fails, surgical therapy can help prolong vision.
Be sure to have your vet give a close look at your pet’s eyes especially after they reach 8 years of age.
Healthy Teeth and Gums
Routine dental care by your veterinarian is very important since older dogs are more prone to gum disease and tartar buildup on their teeth. Diseased teeth and gums can have serious consequences for your pet. In addition to regular visits with a professional, it’s always a good idea for you to check your dog’s teeth and gums regularly.
Kidney and Liver Function
Both functions decrease as your animal ages. Regular check-ups mean these conditions will be treated with medication and appropriate diet. Signs of possible liver or kidney disease could be vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive drinking and urination, and confusion.
Healthy Skin and Fur
The skin seems to lose its elasticity and becomes thinner as your dog ages. The skin is also more susceptible to infection in older pets, especially beneath those fur mats that form if grooming is lacking. Just like humans turn grey with age, more gray hairs appear as your dog ages. If the quality of your dog’s coat changes dramatically, consult your vet. Frequent brushing of the older pet is very important, plus they like the special attention.
With your special loving care and commitment, your dog can enjoy a quality life during these senior years.
Inevitably there will be a time when you have to cope with the decision to euthanize your well loved pet. Remember that if your pet is suffering, euthanasia is a final act of caring and love. You will meet again at Rainbow Bridge.
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