Not surprisingly, senior dogs often slow down with age; they'll likely show signs of physical and mental changes as time marches on. These manifestations could be from the natural life process or a specific health problem.
When pups are in their golden years, a number of health issues can arise. It's essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of these ailments so you can provide the best care for your pooch.
One of the most common afflictions in senior dogs, osteoarthritis can be mild to severe. A degenerative disease that usually affects joints, it wears away cartilage, which causes abnormal bone structures and loss of lubrication. Pain, stiffness, slowness, decreased motion, and lack of motivation are typical indicators of osteoarthritis.
If your furry friend seems lethargic, unwilling, or unable to partake in daily activities or demonstrates weakness in their hind legs, give your vet a call. Osteoarthritis has no cure, but medication and other forms of treatment can slow the disease's progress, relieving stiffness and pain. A healthy diet of omega-3 fatty acids will also support joint health.
As canines age, their immune systems no longer function at peak performance, opening the door for many infections to occur. A primary area of concern is the mouth — gum disease and tooth decay are typical problems many dogs face. Treatments vary and include teeth cleaning, antibiotics, and oral surgery.
Cardiac issues are a common problem in mature pets. Heart disease, arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure are the biggest offenders. They can be fatal if the dog isn't put under strict veterinary care to monitor and maintain the situation.
Sometimes, heart conditions aren't recognized until the diseases progress. Regular checkups will alert the vet to anything abnormal. Between visits, it's important that you're able to identify the signs of cardiac problems, including vomiting and coughing. If these symptoms arise, lethargy, lack of motivation, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness will soon follow.
Usually, hearing loss is gradual in dogs. Therein lies the problem because it's not something an owner can immediately observe. Nerve and cell degeneration are the culprits, so not much can be done to fix the situation. Oddly enough, canines who are deaf or hard-of-hearing don't seem to be affected by it all that much.
Treatment has to do with adaptation and simple lifestyle changes. Hand signals and non-verbal communication are important skills that you need to develop. Also, make sure to never sneak up on your pet from behind because it'll likely scare them. Stomping your feet when walking can help eliminate the surprise factor since the dog will be able to feel the vibrations on the floor.
Cloudy eyes often appear in older animals which could be nuclear sclerosis, which is harmless. Cloudiness can also signify cataracts or other degenerative eye diseases, so it's important to let your vet know if your pup's eyes seem foggy. Blindness usually can't be prevented, but just like deafness, it's all about learning to be adaptable. Loss of sight in older pets is gradual. If sudden blindness occurs, immediately get your dog to the vet or animal hospital.
When a pooch ages, it becomes less active. Romping and exercise still occur, but not as often as they used to. Arthritis plays a part in this, as well as general lethargy, other medical conditions, and simply a calmer personality due to senior status. All of this can result in obesity, which may lead to diabetes and heart disease.
To prevent or slow down weight gain, pay attention to your furry pal's nutrition. Elderly animals don't require nearly as many calories as youngsters, so a specially-formulated dog food for seniors will be most beneficial.
Cancer is a heartbreaking affliction; in older dogs, the prognosis depends entirely on the type of cancer and its progress. What makes this even worse is that there aren't particular symptoms you can look for when generally assessing and monitoring your pet. Signs are different, and sometimes they don't exist at all. Routine testing during vet appointments will usually pick up on anything cancerous or precancerous. It's imperative to keep up with your scheduled vet exams as they can save your buddy's life.
Chronic kidney disease starts out as renal insufficiency. Without treatment, it will develop into full-blown renal failure, which is deadly. Though there's no cure, if kidney disease is caught early, it can be treated, and your dog will have a high quality of life.
Symptoms of kidney disease include thirst, excessive urination, nausea, no appetite, and extreme lethargy. Prescription diets and medication will drastically slow the disease's progression.
Bladder muscles may weaken over time. This has the potential to cause accidents in older canines. Incontinence is a somewhat common part of aging in dogs, so it might not be a big deal. But it also can be a sign of something more serious, like an infection or an underlying disease.
A dog's mental health can decline with age. Dementia and other forms of cognitive dysfunction aren't uncommon. Signs include confusion, seeming lost or disoriented, excessive barking or whimpering, and bathroom accidents in an otherwise housetrained pet.
Contact your vet if your dog is demonstrating one or more of these symptoms. Sadly, there's no current cure for cognitive impairment. Fortunately, there's enough known about it to slow down its development with the right medication and proper nutrition.
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