As long as the four-legged friend plays in youthful exuberance, we like to push the thought of aging aside. However, dog owners should be prepared for that phase of life when they show their first physical weaknesses and their strength slowly dwindles.
Not only are we humans getting older on average, but the life expectancy of our pets is also steadily increasing. This is our reward for good care, regular exercise, species-appropriate husbandry, and feeding, and also for better veterinary care. As we age, various diseases can creep in, from back pain to Alzheimer’s.
Aging is a complex biological process. The dog’s ability to cope with pathogens, exercise, cold, heat, poor diet, or other stress-inducing factors slowly decreases. There is remodeling in the organs and a slowing down of the metabolism. Above all, the digestion of fat deteriorates. Many dogs gain weight with age if the owner does not adjust their feeding. That’s why there are special senior foods that are reduced in calories.
Anyone who recognizes the signs early can save their animal pain
Basically, large dogs are considered seniors from the age of seven and small dogs from the age of nine. From this age, the animals need regular health checks. There are a few typical diseases and physical weaknesses that every pet owner can look out for themselves. Anyone who recognizes the first ailments early on can have the vet intervene quickly and thus save their darling pain or suffering.
Around 80 percent of our dogs get teeth problems over the years. The teeth, gums, or both can be affected. Oral hygiene is just as important for an older pet as it is for people, otherwise, we know the consequences for ourselves: first there is an unpleasant plaque with bacteria that cause inflammation of the gums. If they are overlooked, the floodgates are wide open to the formation of tartar and receding gums. If there is no reaction then, the drama continues: tooth root inflammation, pus formation up to the breakthrough into the nasal cavity can be the consequences. It may seem strange at first, but daily brushing is an effective prophylactic. Specialty toothbrushes and toothpaste flavored with meat or chicken make things easier for dog owners.
In addition to teeth, senior dog owners should also think about their pet’s eyes. Clouding of the lens is common in old age and the constant stretching and contracting of the lens cause age reflexes. In the backlight, the lens then looks cloudy-grey. This form of clouding has little effect on visual performance. Cataracts, on the other hand, can lead to blindness because no light can penetrate through the lens. If there are changes in the pet’s eye, the veterinarian can clarify what the cause is. Reddened eyelids and conjunctivae also need treatment to prevent damage to the cornea later on. Many dogs have too little tear fluid in old age and need eye drops.
An old dog’s skin and coat need special care. Oily, greasy, or scaly skin changes mean that a virus that causes warts can settle more easily. Luckily, such age warts are benign. Allergies, hair loss, and autoimmune diseases also increase with age. Dark-colored dogs typically gray on the head around the muzzle and around the eyes. The coat usually becomes thinner, it loses shine and feels rather dry. Special shampoos help then. A daily gentle five-minute massage with a soft brush stimulates blood circulation in the skin, strengthens the immune system, and ensures a supple coat.
Up to 90 percent of senior dogs suffer from osteoarthritis in the hip
As pets age, they become less agile and mobile. The joints are often a cause for concern. Cartilage damage, meniscus problems, or loosened ligaments are the rule rather than the exception. Up to 90 percent of senior dogs suffer from osteoarthritis in the hips, 20 percent have osteoarthritis in the knees. This is why older dogs need regular, daily exercise. Very bad: Lying around a lot during the week and going on long tours at the weekend. The aged body cannot cope with this.
Dogs can also become forgetful and scatterbrained. A clinical picture that is similar to human Alzheimer’s disease has even been proven. Affected four-legged friends appear restless, are sometimes disoriented, and have impaired perception. Some can no longer even find their way around in their own homes. The prognosis varies greatly, depending on how an animal responds to the medication. And behaviors can change too. A typical sign of aging is a new sleep-wake cycle. Many older dogs sleep for hours during the day but then roam around at night, robbing owners of sleep. If you increase the number of walks and make shorter marches, you can prevent this.