Become informed about the signs of conditions common to older dogs so that you can bring them to your veterinarian’s attention and decide on a course of action. Prompt attention (i.e., don’t wait until it’s time for the semi-annual visit) provides the opportunity for prompt treatment and a better result. An article on The Spruce site discusses nine kinds of health problems common to seniors and the signs to look for and to bring to your veterinarian’s attention. You are closest to your dog and are in the best position to observe behavior that seems different from normal or problematic. A good principle to keep in mind is to never assume that a change in behavior or habits is simply due to advancing age and that nothing can be done about it; there may be a highly treatable condition underlying the changes.
What are the signs of aging and what should you do about them? One of the first signs of aging is slowing down. It will take your dog longer to get up and get started from a lying position, longer to climb stairs (one at a time, rather than two). Some of these changes are natural, but it is important not to overlook changes that may be symptoms of a condition needing treatment. Here are some things to watch for:
Sudden loss of weight can be extremely serious. Take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
Serious loss of appetite — to the point that your dog is eating almost nothing. See your vet right away.
Increase in appetite without increase in weight may mean diabetes. Get to the vet as soon as possible.
Diarrhea or vomiting, if it lasts more than a day can be a sign of many problems. Don’t wait to see the vet.
Increased thirst, without a change in activity level, and increased urination are other signs of diabetes. Your dog should be tested as soon as possible.
Tiring more quickly than when younger is normal as a dog ages, but may also be a sign of disease affecting the heart or lungs. Be alert to your dog’s becoming excessively out of breath after minimal exercise. Have your vet check for cardio-pulmonary problems as soon as possible, if you notice such symptoms. If the vet determines all is normal, you can continue an exercise program, but modify it in order not to overtax your dog.
Coughing and excessive panting may indicate heart disease. If these symptoms persist even after you’ve modified your dog’s exercise program, visit the vet.
Difficulty in getting up from a lying position, or other problems with moving may indicate arthritis. Your vet will be able to advise you on ways you can relieve your dog’s discomfort and lack of mobility.
Problems with vision and hearing are natural as a dog ages. Accommodate these changes as best you can — by not changing the location of furniture, for example, or clapping instead of calling your dog’s name when he no longer seems able to hear you. Use a leash on walks where there’s the danger of your becoming separated from each other.
Graying hair and drying skin are sure signs of aging. More attention to grooming and the introduction of massage will help the condition of the skin and coat.
Behavioral changes that you may see in your older dog include:
Separation anxiety….you may note that when you leave your older dog alone, she become destructive or barks or whines or loses control of elimination
Sensitivity to noise….thunderstorms that never bothered him before may now make your older dog tremble
Vocalizing….may be due to loss of hearing or to a newly-acquired separation anxiety
Uncharacteristic aggression….may be due to painful joints, a drug reaction, or intolerance for new people and new circumstances; your older dog likes things to remain the same
Confusion, lack of attentiveness, disorientation…. You may notice that your dog no longer can find his way around the house….stares off into space…..gets into spaces where he can’t get out
Roaming in circles, barking at nothing, being withdrawn….
If your dog is acting abnormally in any of the above ways, consult your veterinarian about the possibility of your dog’s having Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. There are nutritional or natural supplements and pharmaceuticals your veterinarian may suggest. Anipryl is a drug that can help a dog with cognitive dysfunction, although it does not help all dogs. It takes between 4 and 8 weeks to work. It is an expensive drug under its brand name, but there is a generic equivalent to the human form of the drug (Eldepryl): selegiline hydrochloride. Check with your vet to see if the generic form is acceptable. It is cheaper and can be purchased at any pharmacy with a prescription.
More info on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction here……
Being tuned into your senior dog and noticing anything that strikes you as unusual is important, but it’s taking action that’s even more critical when it comes to a timely diagnosis and treatment. And, of course, in the meanwhile, you can do all in your power to keep your dog healthy by following the items listed on a printable chart that summarizes the Senior Dogs Project’s Ten Tips to Keep Your Senior Dog Healthy.