The Older Dog
Many dogs love jumping over fences, fetching sticks or joining their owner on a long jog, but this is true only as long as they are in good health and in their prime.
Dogs, like their owners, grow old, and then everything becomes more difficult.
Their state of fitness declines, eyes, and ears and often the heart are no longer in top working order. When this stage is reached it is important for owners not to over-extend their pets and to keep a watchful eye on their condition. It’s just the same as with people. Old dogs are no longer as active and would often rather stay at home on their rugs instead of running about wildly.
A dog’s effective age depends on the breed. Small and medium-sized dogs grow old more slowly than big dogs, A Great Dane is getting on in years by the time it is six, while a small terrier can get to 10 before this is the case.
The size of the breed is not a reliable indicator on its own. A German sheep dog at the age of 12 is a rarity, whereas for a poodle this is no great age, the bigger dog’s age more quickly because their joints and their hearts are too weak to carry the greater weight. In addition big dogs tend to have a weaker immune system, making them more susceptible to diseases associated with age.
Like people, dogs tend to go grey with age. Dogs go grey first around the muzzle and then over the whole head.
Owners accustomed to taking their dogs to training sessions while they are in their prime need to realize that they may have to give this up at some point, or at least to restrict the activities the dog is expected to participate in.
It makes sense to have your vet check the animal over to see whether its joints are still in good condition and whether the heart is still beating properly. This can be done at the usual annual inspection, when the dog receives its booster injections for a variety of diseases.
A dog that has been well exercised from its youth onwards can continue at training longer than another animal that has not been exercised.
Even for older dogs movement remains important, it’s just the same as with people, and the longer you are active, the longer you remain fit.
Animals that scarcely move from their comfortable place near the radiator tend to become overweight. Apart from being unattractive, dogs that are overweight are likely to suffer general health problems. When this happens it makes more sense to go out several times a day with the dog, rather than to undertake marathon walks. It is also necessary to take breaks when it becomes obvious that a dog is tiring.
Dogs should also be allowed to rest after feeding, and the food for the senior dog should be a Senior Food. An older dog needs considerably less feed than a younger dog, as its hormones and energy levels are very different.
Dog owners need to be watchful of their pets when they begin to age. There is scarcely a human disease that dogs do not also suffer. The symptoms are often readily visible. Small dogs in particular often have problems with their teeth as they age. If the gums start to show red, the dog should be taken to the vet.
Difficulty in urinating and a matted coat are both indications that medical attention might be required.
Dog lovers should not be in a perpetual state of panic about their animals, especially if they do not show any of these obvious acute symptoms. If the dog makes a good impression in general, feeds normally and looks good, then there is in general no reason to be constantly going to the vet to have a check-up, but I recommend once every six months.
The main advantage of senior dog is that they are often more obedient and less likely to get up to mischief, because they are simply more relaxed.