Taking Care of Aging Dogs

by Amy M. Armstrong Google
    Older dogs are especially sensitive to temperature changes.

    Older dogs are especially sensitive to temperature changes.

    Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images

    He's not a pup anymore and he isn't quite as quick to greet you at the front door. Your four-legged companion is getting older thus necessitating some change in your relationship and how you care for him.

    Signs of Aging

    As with humans, graying is one of the most obvious physical signs of aging in a dog. It appears around the muzzle, on his chest and on top of his head. WebMD Healthy Dogs discusses the appearance of bumps and lumps on the skin as well as eyelid tumors as an indication that a dog's immune system is beginning to slip as old age sets in.

    What Number Is Old?

    The old adage that age is just a number applies to the canine world. In general, larger dogs tend to age faster than smaller dogs according to WebMD Healthy Dogs. Great Danes are often considered geriatric by age five or six. The Infovets Canine Manual indicates dogs age seven times faster than humans with an average life expectancy of 12 years. It also indicates dogs at ages seven and eight are considered middle age with age nine being the magic marker for official old age status. For smaller breed dogs that tend to live more pampered indoor lives, old age doesn't usually hit until 10 years.

    Diseases

    According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than half the dogs more than 10 years of age will die from some form of canine cancer. That's a sobering statistic for human companions who end up weighing the value of the relationship versus the hefty expense that often goes hand-in-paw with treating cancer in dogs. As with humans, arthritis strikes older dogs -- particularly those who were highly active in their younger years and may have some skeletal damage from years of hard living. Petfinder indicates arthritic symptoms can show up as early as five years of age. WebMD Healthy Dogs warns that renal and kidney disease as well as heart failure and diabetes are common ailments for older dogs. Regular veterinary check-ups go a long way toward spotting a problem.

    Diet

    Weight management is key to an older dog's health and longevity. Petfinder advises avoiding economy or low-cost foods for a senior dog and instead spending as much as is affordable on high quality food for an older canine. Lower quality foods have lower digestibility meaning it is more difficult for the dog to obtain the nutrients necessary for organ health. WebMD Healthy Dogs suggests foods with reduced calories and reduced fat.

    Mental Adjustments

    Sometimes seeming a bit grumpy, an aging dog -- male or female -- may become irritable around children and other dogs says the American Kennel Club. He wants to sleep more and doesn't want to be bothered as much as in his younger years. WebMD Healthy Dogs indicates aging dogs tend to become less social. Older dogs with weaker eyesight or hearing loss may also get confused easily, standing at the wrong side of the door to be let outside. Disorientation may also be caused by a condition similar to Alzheimer's in humans indicates WebMD Healthy Dogs.

    Photo Credits

    • Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.

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