The old saying goes that dogs are a man’s best friend, but in reality, the relationship between canine and human goes way deeper. Dogs have transcended the role of best friend and have nuzzled their way into the family unit. It’s no surprise that we take it so hard when our furry friends grow old, but if we pay attention to the signs of aging in dogs, then there are steps we can take to help prolong the lives of our pets.
The first thing to remember is that larger dogs age faster than smaller dogs. In addition to this, overweight and obese dogs age faster than dogs who are thin and in shape. Many people argue over when it’s time to call a dog “senior.” As a general rule, many veterinarians and other animal specialists will refer to a dog as “old” when they are past half their life expectancy. Smaller dogs can be expected to live up to 12-16 years, while larger breeds of dogs have typical life expectancies of 10 to 13 years. The lifespan also has a lot to do with their breed.
The signs of aging are not that dissimilar from that of humans. Aches and pains will set in, making it difficult for your dog to engage in activities that were commonplace beforehand. Simple tasks like walking up stairs, running etc., can become increasingly difficult as the aches and pains of old age start to creep in. You may also notice that your dog may start to seem clumsy; walking into things, seeming disoriented and unresponsive to your calls. Again, these are signs of aging similar to what we two-legged folks go through. The eyes and ears lose the sharpness and clarity of youth. Probably the worst sign you will see that your dog is aging is when little accidents will start to happen in the house. It may be as simple as their increasing lack of mobility, making it difficult for them to get out in time, but it could also be a sign of something more, perhaps bladder or kidney problems.
You can help avoid life-threatening problems of aging in dogs by taking them for regular vet check-ups. The most common cause of death in senior dogs is cancer and almost half of dogs can die from it. As an owner, you should be aware that the onset of aging issues varies widely by breed and dog size. Researching your dog's breed can help better prepare you for any ailments specific to them, making the aging transition easier for the both of you.
Some of those aches and pains and lack of mobility are going to happen regardless of your level of attention, but you can certainly help ease the pain somewhat by helping your aging dog through the process. Adding a set of doggie steps to your home will help them get up to the areas where they are allowed. Regular walks will help to keep them active, but keep an eye on their energy level and be sure to stop at the first signs of tiredness. Once your dog reaches a certain age, they may find it difficult to maintain a comfortable body temperature. You can help by adding a padded blanket to their bed and making sure that the bed is stored in a warm, dry area of your home.
We love our dogs, but it’s important to realize that they are not going to be around for as long as we would like. A little preventative care, recognizing the signs of aging and a whole lot of loving attention will ensure your senior dog has the longest chance of being by your side.