By 9 years of age, your pup has seen it all. He doesn't have time for your lectures about getting in the trash or the importance of sitting the first time you give the command. He's got things to do, like sleep, eat a little and sleep some more. Becoming a senior pup marks the beginning of behavioral changes, when your little guy appears calmer or, sometimes, more agitated.
At 9 years of age, a lot of the changes your pup sees are cosmetic, such as the graying whiskers and Gandalf-like eyebrows. But that old canine body goes through a few changes too, and your little guy will probably appear less active than usual. His boundless energy in his younger years has faded, conditions like arthritis often pop up and hereditary problems, such as hip dysplasia, usually worsen. So your old pup will likely lie around more than he did in the past. But that doesn't mean he should be a couch potato all the time, unless he's in a lot of pain or feeling sick. He should chase balls, play with his favorite toys and leap up to bark at whoever dares to knock on your door.
Before reaching the big 0-9, your pup probably shook off the winter weather as a minor inconvenience, at least while inside. But old age takes its toll, and older dogs have trouble regulating their body temperatures properly. Even though you may feel comfortable inside your house while the snow is falling outside, your pup might feel a bit chilly. Give him a bed and pile a few old blankets around so that he has a place to get warm and cozy. Take it easy on walks and exercise, especially on hotter days when it's easy for him to get overheated, and always provide him lots of fresh water.
Your 9-year-old canine might put a stop to emptying his food bowl every chance he gets, and that's not terribly uncommon in older pups. Since your pup isn't as active, he's naturally going to eat less. Taking him for daily walks, letting him run off the leash and playing with him each day will often put his appetite back on track. Regular exercise also keeps obesity at bay. However, obesity can also happen because of hypothyroidism. Whereas senior cats typically develop hyperthyroidism and lose weight, older dogs sometimes battle hypothyroidism, which is the decreased thyroid hormone production, causing a lowered metabolism. Weight gain, hair thinning, hair loss and lethargy are extremely common in dogs who suffer from hypothyroidism. Only your vet can diagnose your little guy, so always have a chat with him if you see these symptoms appear. If you have a small-breed pup, there's some good news: toy and miniature breeds rarely suffer from hypothyroidism, according to Merck Veterinary Manual.
Turning 9 doesn’t mean your pup has to become a cranky canine, but he may become agitated quicker than usual. His lack of patience likely stems from the conditions that accompany old age, such as and especially arthritis. His joints probably hurt him after a long day of jumping on the couch and playing fetch, so when he's bothered by someone or your other pets, he may growl, snap or seem flustered. Any time a dog feels pain, he's more likely to react negatively to being poked, prodded and sniffed. He just wants to relax.
Although a decreased appetite, weight gain, lack of energy, heat and cold tolerance and minor aggression are common in older dogs, never chalk up any of those things to your pup's age. Always talk with your vet to rule out serious medical problems. If you notice anything especially abnormal, such as smelly urine, complete loss of appetite or a scent of ammonia on his breath, call your vet right away.
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