As we get older, you often notice your pace slowing down, your bones start to creak, minor pains can become major, and any added weight can result in diabetes or circulatory problems. Hopefully, you stay in shape and eat a healthy diet to minimize the risks of developing serious illnesses and complications as you head into your senior years.
As dogs age, they too are more prone to certain diseases and ailments. If you have a senior dog, you need to be aware of the signs your dog could have a chronic illness because they can be easily overlooked.
• Arthritis – Canine arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, can result in pain and inflammation in senior dogs. Over their lifetime, dog’s joints take a pounding from jumping out of the car, chasing Frisbees, and leaping into lakes. Overuse can lead to ligament tears and arthritis. There are two main types of joint problems in dogs: developmental and degenerative. Developmental arthritis usually occurs when a joint does not develop correctly. Degenerative joint problems occur when a joint is degenerating over time. You may notice that your dog has a harder time getting up, going up and down the stairs or getting in and out of a car. Talk to your vet about the surgical and non-surgical options which may include a diet change and the addition of medications.
• Dementia – Dog dementia or cognitive dysfunction disorder is a thought processing dysfunction when there is a physical change in your dog’s brain and its chemicals. Your dog may seem lost, anxious, or listless, beyond the normal signs of aging. Scientific research has made significant advances in this area, so talk to your vet in your twice yearly visit. Certain options are now available to help with the symptoms.
• Gum Disease – Veterinarians estimate that 85% of dogs over five years of age suffer from periodontal disease. Your dog’s gums may become inflamed when mouth bacteria turn to plaque on the teeth. A dog’s saliva hardens plaque and creates tartar. Bacteria and plaque then spread below the gums and cause inflammation. Infections to your dog’s gums can spread through the bloodstream and cause serious damage to internal organs and bone loss. It’s important that you brush your dog’s teeth daily or at least weekly.
• Diabetes – Dog diabetes results when there is a lack of the hormone insulin or an inadequate response to insulin. When a dog does not produce insulin or cannot process it normally, his blood sugar levels increase. The result is hyperglycemia, which, if left untreated, can spell many complications for your dog. Dogs that are overweight or obese, as well as female dogs, run a higher risk of developing diabetes as they become older dogs (6-9 years of age). Some breeds are more susceptible to dog diabetes including Australian terriers, standard and miniature schnauzers, dachshunds, poodles, keeshonds and samoyeds. Dogs can be treated with oral medications, a high fiber diet, and in some cases, insulin shots.
• Blindness – Although some dogs are born blind, most often it results from age, injury or other progressive illnesses such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal degeneration. It’s best when caught as early as possible, so you can begin creating a safer environment for your dog. For instance, try to avoid moving furniture, because your dog will have a “mental map” of where things are. Never let your dog outside by itself into unfamiliar surroundings as he becomes more vulnerable. A diagnosis of blindness, albeit sad is not catastrophic. The fact is that most dogs, even those with normal eyesight, do not really see very well. Instead, they often depend on their keen senses of hearing and smell.
• Cancer –Unfortunately, the leading cause of death in senior dogs is cancer. Blood tests are not very efficient in testing for cancer, so it is important you check your older dogs for lumps or bumps, changes in weight, sores that are slow to heal or bleeding from the mouth, nose or ears. Other things to watch for are diarrhea, constipation, or blood and mucous in the stool. Successful cancer treatment is more likely if it is caught early.
At Help’EmUp, we are dedicated to helping dogs stay by your side longer and keeping them healthy plays a vital role. That’s why we have developed a dog harness specifically for older dogs!