We all love our dogs. So probably the hardest thing for us is to watch them age. Just like us, they undergo changes that may require further support from us as pet owners.So what are some of the common changes that occur in your aging dog? How can we help them deal with these changes? What changes do we need to make in their care?
Orthopedic ChangesMost dogs, especially active dogs experiences changes with their bones and joints as they get older. Arthritis sets in especially in the hips, knees, and elbows. Many dogs with these signs will be stiff with their walk, have trouble walking up/down stairs, and have problems rising from laying down.
Dental ChangesAn aging dog may experience changes in their teeth. Many dogs will develop tartar or plaque on their teeth and may also develop gum disease. As dental disease advances, this may cause teeth with exposed roots or that become loosened.
Lumps and BumpsMany dogs may have lumps or bumps appear on their skin. Some common lumps include fatty tumors and warts. Cancerous skin masses are also a concern as well in an aging dog. So any masses that seem to grow quickly or are firm to the touch should be brought to a veterinarian's attention.
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Cataracts can develop which is caused by an excessive build up of fiber in the lens. This often can lead to blindness. Another change that needs to be monitored is redness around the whites of the eyes. This change could indicate glaucoma or dry eye.
Diet ChangesIf your dog is already on a well-balanced diet then this probably need not change. But as dogs get older they can definitely become more sensitive to fatty and rich diets. Also since older dogs metabolism slows down as well as their activity, the amount of food may need to be adjusted to avoid obesity.
So what can we do to help our aging friends?There are several ways to help our aging pets. In regards orthopedic changes, you should consider getting your dog on long"“term joint supplements to help with joint mobility. Common joint supplements contain glucosamine and MSM as active ingredients. You may need to consult with your veterinarian to see if they need any additional medication for pain management such as an anti-inflammatory. Once your dog becomes a senior, you dog may need dental exams by your veterinarian to see if a cleaning is needed. In fact, it is recommended that older dogs get cleaning every year to maintain healthy teeth. You should get into the habit of frequently feeling around your dog for any lumps or bumps that may come up. If you feel anything unusual, make sure you have your veterinarian check it out and possible test it to rule out cancer. Regarding changes to the eyes, nucleur sclerosis or mild cloudiness can be normal in older dogs. Where there should be a concern if you are noting any redness, discharge, or compromise in vision. These changes would indicate a need to visit a veterinarian.
Final ThoughtsAs dogs get older just as they need to adjust to changes that come with age, we need to adjust our care for them as well. In most breeds a dog is considered geriatric when they are 7 years or older. At this age it is recommended that they get regular physical exams at least twice yearly. Yearly bloodwork is also recommended at this age as well to help with early detection of diseases. We are the best advocates for our older pets so the more we can do for them the better their quality of life will be.
Dwight Alleyne, DVM Dwight Alleyne, DVM is the author of the Animal Doctor Blog, a blog that provides veterinary information about cats and dogs through articles and product reviews. He has almost 20 years of animal experience with 10 years as a veterinary technician and more than 9 years as a veterinarian. He currently practices in Georgia at a small animal practice where he provides veterinary services through surgeries and medical consultations. When he is not working, Dr. Alleyne enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and 7 year old cat named Queen.