Nothing’s cuter than a spritely young pup, but unfortunately, dogs don’t stay puppies forever. If your loyal best friend is entering his or her golden years, you may have started to notice the gray hairs creeping onto their face. You may have also noticed that your pooch sleeps more and has less energy.
Perhaps you’ve also noticed that your dog has a hitch in their step? Or that their attitude has changed and they’re grumpier or more anxious around kids or other pets?
If you have noticed any of these signs of aging, you’re probably worrying and wondering what you can do to help. Here we’ll walk through the most common health ailments older dogs suffer from, plus what you can do as a pet parent to ensure that your dog’s older years are as happy and healthy as possible.
1. Arthritis & Joint Issues
Osteoarthritis also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD) is defined by PetMD as the “progressive and permanent long-term deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints”.
This is one of the most common health problems facing pets and people in their older years. Unfortunately our furry friends can’t moan or tell us when they feel ‘creaky’ in their joints, but if you pay close attention you should be able to notice if they favor one leg over the other or limp.
How to spot if your dog has joint issues
According to Innovet Pet, sometimes osteoarthritis in dogs is most apparent when they attempt to stand up after napping and sort of hobble, or they may refuse to sit when you tell them to. If your pet has typically been very obedient, the act of them refusing to sit could signal that they are suffering from inflammation of the joints, arthritis, or dog hip dysplasia. If you spot these signs or can sense your dog is in pain, make sure to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Early management of canine arthritis symptoms and other joint pain will lead to a better outcome.
How can you help?
There are a number of treatment options available today, from joint supplements to physical therapy, weight management, acupuncture, and even laser treatments. Recently there has been a spike in popularity in using CBD treatments to improve a pet’s comfort and mobility.
In addition to this, there are lots of products that can help pets with mobility issues, arthritis or joint pain too. Have you considered a pet bike trailer? They’re fantastic for pets with limited mobility who still want to enjoy fresh air and an adventure with you.
Or, if your pet needs more substantial support, Walkin’ Pets actually recently introduced a solution for doggy hip pain, the Walkin’ Hip-EEZ Support System.
Did you know that an estimated 6 million dogs will be diagnosed with cancer this year? Dogs are affected by more forms of cancer in comparison to other animals. In fact, cancer is the leading cause of death in 47% of dogs, especially dogs over age ten.
These statistics are shocking, but cancer is something that can strike anyone, at any time. However with age, certain types of cancer can be more likely to happen.
Dogs will often get lumps that appear quite quickly. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, it’s important to see your veterinarian right away – even though a lot of doggy lumps and bumps will be nothing to worry about.
What are the most common lumps & bumps in dogs?
Lipomas are actually the most common lumps found in dogs, (and completely harmless) usually under the skin of older dogs. Wart-like growths are also commonplace, and the good news is that they can be easily removed and are typically not cancerous. Older dogs are also more susceptible to ‘fatty knots’ which again are benign and don’t need to be removed unless they begin to interfere with muscle tissue.
Other Symptoms of Canine Cancer
Lumps are the most common symptom associated with cancer and they are relatively easy to spot (so long as you can your dog well groomed).
However, the Drake Centre for Veterinary Care says that there are also others symptoms you should watch out for:
- Lumps and bumps underneath a dog’s skin
- Abnormal odors emanating from the mouth, ears, or any other part of the body
- Abnormal discharge from the eyes, mouth or rectum
- Abdominal swelling
- Non-healing wounds or sores
- Sudden and irreversible weight loss
- Change in appetite
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- Lethargy or depression
- Changes in bathroom habits
- Evidence of pain
How can you help?
If cancer is diagnosed, your veterinarian will go through a treatment plan with you. Your dog may require surgery, oral chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of any of the above, so the best thing you can do is show them love and affection and make sure treatment is prompt and they aren’t in pain.
Diabetes mellitus, also known as “sugar diabetes,” is the most common type of diabetes effecting dogs. It is believed that some pets, as well as people, are more genetically susceptible to diabetes. Although a poor diet and/or obesity can also be a trigger.
70% of dogs are older than seven at the time of diagnosis.
Symptoms to watch out for:
- Excessive thirst
- Increased need to pee and an increase in urine output
- Weight loss despite normal or increase food consumption
- Acute-onset blindness resulting from cataracts
If you think your pooch may have diabetes, you can actually check your dog’s blood sugar with the same kit sold for humans.
VCA Hospitals explain: The normal level of glucose in the blood is 80-120 mg/dl (4.4-6.6 mmol/L). It may rise to 250-300 mg/dl (13.6-16.5 mmol/L) following a large or high-calorie meal, but diabetes is the only common disease that will cause the blood glucose level to rise above 400 mg/dl (22 mmol/L).
If you don’t have this equipment available to you, or if you do and your dog’s blood sugar levels are abnormally high or low, make sure to go to your veterinarian as soon as you can.
How can you help?
Though diabetes is a serious condition, it is very manageable. Your vet will be able to determine the right type of diabetic insulin and dosage for your pup, and explain how to administer this at home.
Most importantly, schedule regular visits with your Veterinarian
The most important thing you can do for your ageing pooch is to schedule regular visits with your vet. As pets age, they are more susceptible to the health problems we have discussed, as well as digestive issues, weight management problems and a whole host of other illnesses.
Even if your dog seems healthy and spritely, make sure to take them to the vet at least once a year. Remember, lots of illnesses are hidden and not obvious to the naked eye, so taking extra precaution is always sensible.
When you are with your veterinarian, ask if they can evaluate your pooch’s body condition, or show you how you can do it yourself. Knowing if you dog is overweight or underweight is even more important in their golden years, as this could indicate a health problem or could increase the risks of developing chronic diseases. You should do your best to feed your dog a balanced, nutritious diet to suit his changing needs.
It’s also a good idea to do bloodwork. Changes in the blood chemistry will immediately show if there is an underlying issue and will often point your veterinarian in the direction of a diagnosis.
We’ve talked about some of the most common ailments that older dogs face, but there are a whole host of other problems and health issues that can come with age. It’s always best to get regular health checks for your pet, and remember, a pet who suddenly becomes grumpy or undergoes behavioural changes is very possibly in pain and should be evaluated medically.
Most importantly, do not be overwhelmed by a diagnosis. If you dog has a health issue, he or she needs you to be strong so you can get through it together. Your aging dog’s health issues can be effectively managed. When combined with good care your dog can enjoy their twilight years happily with you by their side.