For us humans the definition of old is subjective. This does not ring as true for dogs. The old school of thought was that a dog ages about 7 years for every 1 human year, but that has changed recently. It is now believed that after the first couple years of a dog’s life they actually begin to age much faster; at a rate of about 15 years to every 1 human year.
If you have had your canine for some time you may be noticing that he or she is not as peppy as they once were. They may think twice before darting off to chase that little red ball or may be slower to greet you at the door, sans the giddy jumping. And that is okay. Your furry friend is aging just as you are only a bit faster.
Your aging dog is biologically going through a lot of changes and that means as their owner you are going to have to also make some changes; for your pet and to your expectations. As the years go by, your dogs activity level will decrease and what worked for them, and you, in the past may not still work.
First, there is the issue of medical concerns. According to The American Veterinary Medical Association, 50 percent of all dogs will likely die from a form of cancer so yearly check-ups are important. Other high risk diseases include diabetes, kidney diseases, sclerosis, osteoarthritis and cardiovascular diseases. All of these are treatable but it will take professional medical care, your support and yes, some money.
Next, you will want to consider the dietary needs of your aging dog. As dogs get older they are similar to humans in that their metabolism gradually slows, thus their caloric intake will need to be adjusted. Simultaneously, their activity level is likely to decrease which could lead to obesity issues. Recovery SA recommends that as your pet ages, owners decrease caloric intake by 20 percent. Obesity in dogs can lead to myriad of other health related issues and concerns.
You should also consider adding additional fiber to your senior dog’s diet. This will help with bone density and weight control and can be given in pill form. Carbohydrates and fats should be decreased at the same time.
Coat and skin changes are also likely to occur. You may notice some graying and their coat becoming thinner. Grooming a few times per day is recommended. This is also the perfect time for you to keep tabs on any lumps, sores or missing hair patches as these are common signs of something medical going on. Dog’s skin also tends to become drier with aging, causing your canine to want to scratch. Adding fish oil or other fatty acid to their diet will help the skin stay moisturized and improve their coats.
Finally, teeth and vision may begin to falter. Dogs teeth need to be brushed every day and you will want to examine their mouths carefully for gum disease and decay, both of which can lead to heart disease if not treated. Sclerosis and glaucoma are common vision problems for aging dogs so have their eyes checked annually. It is helpful if as their owner, you don’t make too many changes to household furniture or move their bedding and toys around; dogs depend on their memory quite a bit.
Your dog aging is natural and although you can’t slow the aging process you can make their senior years much more comfortable and rewarding for both of you by giving your canine proper medical treatment and regular veterinary visits.