When it comes to our senior pets, it’s important to show them that old love is the best love by treating them right. Kristie Bradfield reports.
We live our lives in stages. As we age, strange things start happening to our bodies; we slow down and enjoy life at a slower pace. Dogs do this, too. That zippy little puppy you brought home one day will turn into a sweet senior who is more than happy just to snooze by your side.
So how old does a dog need to be before he is considered senior? Defining the exact age at which all dogs become “senior” is difficult because each breed of dog ages in different ways. Usually, larger breed dogs age faster than smaller breeds, so an Alaskan Malamute is considered senior at around seven years of age while a Chihuahua is senior at 11 to 13 years. As a very loose guide, some experts say that when dogs enter the last 25 per cent of their projected lifespan, they’ve reached their senior years.
Caring for an older dog is a little different to caring for a puppy; it’s important to have an idea of potential health problems so you can plan and prepare. Here are a few of the most common issues facing our senior dogs.
Achy joints and decreased mobility
You may notice that your senior dog is a little stiff when he stands and may not move as freely as he once did. While decreased mobility can be a simple sign of getting older, it may also point to arthritis. Arthritis, which is also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, is one of the most common ailments affecting older dogs. Some of the signs that could indicate arthritis include:
- Not interested in walking or playing
- Reduced movement
- Stiffness when walking
- Difficulty jumping up onto the couch or into the car
- Licking the joints
- Pain when touching the affected area
Dog dental disease affects more than 80 per cent of dogs and it can lead to significant health issues if left unchecked. Dog dental disease, known as periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection in the mouth. It occurs over time as plaque on the teeth hardens into tartar. If caught early, tartar can be removed by your vet with very little fuss. If it’s left too long, it can increase your dog’s risk of infections in the liver, kidney and heart, and cause damage to the jawbone and connective tissue.
How do you know if your dog has dental disease? Dr Aaron says to be on the lookout for:
- Foul breath
- Blood along the gums
- Difficulty chewing
- Pawing at the mouth
- Severe depression
- Loss of appetite
“Keep in mind the mouth is the most likely part of the body to carry infection and is often the entry point for a lot of bacteria into the body,” Dr Aaron says.
Adopting a senior dog There are a lot of senior dogs, aged seven and over, who are looking for new homes. The great majority of these senior pets are friendly, well-adjusted and well-behaved, and they will fit right into their new family — all they need is a chance to show you how much love they have. Some shelters around the country provide discount fees on older dogs too, so not only do you get to bring home a wonderful new family member, but it’s also a little cheaper to do so.
Woops! Did you want to read the whole article? Get your paws on issue #139 at universalshop.com.au.Here are just a few things that can make life with your dog a bit easier - see them now on our DOGSLife Directory