Caring For Your Senior Dog
It may be hard to believe that at 7 years of age your pet is considered a senior. Although they may still seem young in appearance, there are physical changes occurring within their body that can affect your pet's health. We would like to take the opportunity to inform you of some of the changes that may occur as your pet becomes older. By being aware and educated about the changes that may occur, you can help your pet enjoy an active and healthy senior life. Some of these changes can include:
Metabolic changes - as animals age the metabolic rate slows and nutrition requirements change. Older animals can require more water intake, different proportions of minerals and an easily digestible, but not excessively high, protein source. Older dogs can also be more susceptible to dietary upsets, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Proper nutrition plays a very important role in senior health. Our veterinarians will make recommendations appropriate to your pets needs.
Dental Disease- oral health is important at all stages of your pet's life, but especially as your pet ages. Dental disease is one of the most common diseases our veterinarians diagnose. Dental cleanings should be done before advanced gingivitis or periodontal disease is present, as these conditions are painful and can cause further health problems.
The stage of your dog's dental disease will be determined at his/her health check. Dental cleanings and treatment will be recommended based on their oral health. It is now scientifically established that good oral health can lengthen your pet's life by several years.
Musculoskeletal System - osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal problem and can cause significant discomfort as it progresses. Please let us know if you notice any stiffness or slowing down in your pet.
There are many steps that you can take to help your pet stay comfortable as their joints age. We have an entire section within this website that deals with arthritis in your dog.
Heart Disease- the heart is a powerful organ made of specialized muscle tissue. As your pet ages their heart may become damaged. This damage may result in heart failure or other cardiac (heart) disease. Signs of heart disease can include coughing, lack of energy, shortness of breath, weight loss and or exercise intolerance. Early detection is vital for detecting and managing heart disease.
Kidney Disease- is one of the most common medical problems of older pets. The kidneys filter and remove waste materials from the blood and help regulate body fluids. Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys fail to perform these functions properly and waste materials accumulate in the blood. Signs of kidney disease can include increased drinking and urinating, depression and poor appetite. All pets, especially those over the age of seven should be screened early for kidney disease- BEFORE signs of illness appear. The progression of the disease can often be slowed by something as easy as a diet change.
Thyroid Disease- in dogs the incidence of hypothyroidism increases from middle age on. Signs of thyroid disease include listlessness, weight gain or sluggish weight loss, poor hair coat, loss of hair and sometimes lameness. Early detection and treatment of thyroid disease can significantly improve quality of life and is as easy as a blood test to diagnose.
Diabetes- diabetes mellitus is a condition that develops when your pet cannot use sugar (glucose) effectively and cannot control the sugar levels in the blood. Insulin which is made in the pancreas, is essential for regulating the use and storage of blood glucose. Insufficient insulin production is life threatening. Diabetes is more common in middle aged, over weight dogs. Signs of diabetes include weight loss, excessive drinking and urinating. Diabetes can be readily detected on routine wellness blood work.
Skin and Coat - you may notice that your pet's coat is becoming dull and lusterless or that they are losing hair. This happens over time as the hair follicles age. Older animals also tend to have more tumors of the skin than younger animals. Early detection of malignant tumors can allow for early treatment, which in turn significantly prolong your pets life.
Eyesight - as your dog ages the probability of vision loss increases. Some of the common causes of declining eyesight include: cataract, glaucoma, lens luxation and corneal disease. Part of your dog's physical exam includes a thorough eye exam.
Hearing - over time the receptor organ in the ear degenerates, causing a gradual loss of hearing. Please let us know if you notice hearing loss in your pet.
Liver Disease- the liver is an important organ with many functions, including the digestion and conversion of nutrients and the removal of toxic substances from the blood. Senior pets have a higher incidence of liver disease. Early detection through Wellness blood screening can significantly improve the management and limit the progression of liver disease. The signs of liver disease are not very specific but can include decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst and jaundice. Consult the clinic immediately if your pet is not eating.
Cognitive Dysfunction - this condition is felt to be caused by physical and chemical changes in the brain. Owners often feel their pet is just getting old when they are less responsive or confused but they may be experiencing signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). There are prescription diets available that have been scientifically proven to assist this problem as well as a prescription drug called Anipryl. Please do not assume that your dog is just getting old, speak to our Doctors about their behaviour to determine if they may be dealing with Cognitive Dysfunction.
This information is meant to give you some background information on some of the concerns that may arise as your pet ages. Remember we are here to help you and your canine friend. If you have any questions arising from this information please let us know.