Like humans that age and get older, sadly so do our dogs. But how do we know the signs of old age in dogs?
When we first get our dogs, the last thing that we are thinking about is them getting older.
Depending on the breed that you have chosen each one becomes a senior dog at a very different age. Small breeds generally have a longer life span than the larger breeds.
Being able to catch and notice the signs of old age in dogs is important so that you can spot them early. Like any health issue making sure that you notice it and get treatment as soon as possible can really help save your dogs discomfort or pain.
If you don’t see something right away, you dog can potentially be suffering and you don’t even know it.
Slowing down, aches and pains
Most dog owners have a routine associated with their dog. They require exercise regularly to help them stay fit and healthy. It may start as something you notice once in a while, or all of a sudden. Maybe that walk that you take with your dog seems slower than usual.
Your dog has trouble keeping up to you or falling short of the usual route length that you take. More likely though your dog slowing down can be spotted when they are off leash and out running about.
I know with our dog FINN, we sort of out of the blue noticed that he didn’t want to continue to run and play Frisbee as long as he used to.
At first, we thought maybe he was just tired or sluggish that day. Then it continued to happen every time we tried to play fetch with him.
He just didn’t have that stamina that we were used to seeing from him.
Many dogs as they get older can develop joint and muscle stiffness issues. They of course are like us in the sense that they can even end up with arthritis in many of their joints. You may not notice it right away, as dogs have a tendency to hide their ailments.
Sadly it can get to a point where they are not longer capable of hiding it anymore and you may see limping or overall mobility issues.
If it gets bad enough, you may want to try some kind of joint supplement to help give your dog some relief.
Your dog’s outer appearance may start to change slowly. You may not even notice the slight changes that are happening with your dog.
With our dog BOO we noticed that his hair was thinning around his back and back end area. His hair almost looked like it was a different texture there as well.
Depending on how often you groom your dog, after a recent grooming is likely when you will see the real difference. Keeping their hair long, tends to hide changes so you don’t notice them.
Changes to your dogs frame and structure is something that will all of a sudden look very different. It may appear bony even pointy. Their neck starts to protrude more and their back bone may show through their hair.
Our BOO started showing these slight appearance changes. His back seemed more bony, and of course as a concerned mom, I asked the Vet why it looked different. He looked right at me and said, well how old is he, and I said 14 or so. He laughed and said well sorry to say it’s just old age. You know how older people appear more frail as they age, well with dogs it is the same.
Spotting changes in your dogs eyes can happen as they age. Cloudy eyes is something that can develop. The cloudy eyes can be one of 2 things, either nuclear sclerosis or cataracts.
Dogs eyes can appear to have a hazy look to them, this haziness is called nuclear sclerosis. Nuclear sclerosis does not diminish your dogs ability to see, but can cause them a little trouble focusing. Usually this appears in both eyes equally.
The different between this and cataracts is that with cataracts the eyes appear white and opaque. Unlike nuclear sclerosis where the eyes are bluish and cloudy.
Cataracts can be caused by a couple of different reasons. One of the causes can be due to diabetes in your dog. Other causes can be old age or trauma.
Some cataracts directly affect your dogs loss of vision while others may cause a more serious issue like glaucoma. When medication fails to help the issue, a surgical procedure maybe required.
BOO had the most beautiful brown eyes. He would always look right at you when cuddling beside you or respond when you are calling him. When he was around 10 or so we started to notice that his eyes were cloudy or that their was a different sheen than before. Lucky for us, his was nuclear sclerosis and not cataracts.
The only real thing that we did notice due to cloudy eyes were that he sometimes had trouble when it was nighttime with depth perception.
For him we were lucky and his eyes didn’t require any medication or anything at all. We just paid a little more attention to him at night if he needed to go out.
Dogs just like humans can have some hearing loss as they age. This is generally a gradual thing that you will notice with your dog. Most times it is caused by degenerative changes in the nerves that are inside the ear.
The first indication that your dog may have hearing loss is something as simple as you call them and they don’t respond. You may think they are just distracted and didn’t hear you. Then it starts happening more often and you start to realize, that okay maybe they are having trouble hearing.
It can be difficult to watch your dogs hearing fade, but at the same time they are still the same dog and you may just need to be more patient with them.
You can try making simple changes like a soft touch to get their attention and once you have eye contact ask them what you want them to do. Hand signals are also a great way to get your dog to do what you are asking.
We noticed small hearing issues with BOO when he was around 12 or 13. He didn’t go deaf, but his hearing definitely was not 100% for the last few years of his life. For us we just made sure that we got his attention and than when he was looking at you, he would than respond to the commands we were using.
His hearing loss, did not cause him any hardships at all and for us it really was just something you have to be aware of.
Changing sleep patterns
Most of the time when we are at work all day we don’t really know what our dogs are doing when we are gone. More times than not they seem to be sleeping.
Puppies sleep a lot when they are young, that much we know. Yet as they age, they seem to almost revert back to that same sleep pattern of sleeping a lot.
Aging dogs you will notice do seem to sleep quite a bit. Anytime their is a change in the amount of energy your dog has, it is usually something that is very easy to see.
All of a sudden your dog doesn’t seem to have the energy they used to have. Maybe it’s the am wake up of the alarm and your dog decides that he isn’t getting up when you do. That was the big indicator for us that BOO was definitely a senior dog. He was always the first one to jump off the bed to get up. Then one day out of the blue, he just didn’t get up.
To be honest, it was pretty cute to see him all cuddled up in the big bed all by himself. Generally he would trot out of the room maybe an hour after we had all gotten up like nothing new was happening.
The hard part for us, is that we knew that it meant our baby, was really getting old.
Teeth and breath
There is nothing worse than a dog with bad breath. They lean in for that oh so lovely kiss and than POW it hits yeah. Yikes what the heck.
What is the cause of the bad breath…..well of course we all know it is bad teeth.
Taking your dog to the Vet over the life of our pet, does get expensive. Now taking your do to the Vet to get their teeth cleaned regularly is very expensive. Unfortunately the reality of not paying the price to get them cleaned will lead to abscess teeth or gum infections as they age.
Years and years of eating even healthy dog food and treats, can lead to having an aging dog with bad teeth.
Usually when it gets to the really bad breath, there can be multiple issues in your dogs mouth. I know for us as dog owners of 2 dogs, we did our very best to get our dogs teeth cleaned as much as we could.
Yet still, we ended up with BOO at 15 with 5 teeth that needed to be pulled and a gum infection. At that point you have no choice as our poor dog was now suffering.
We can always use a little help trying to keep our dogs teeth as clear of plague build up and bad breath as possible. There are many great products on the market today, that can really help with providing that help to us. Things like dog toys, mouth sprays, toothpaste, and great treats that geared for getting in the small spaces.
Bladder control for our dogs can certainly be something that can become more difficult to hold as they start to age.
It could be an occasional accident that may happen once in a while. Generally dogs don’t completely lose all bladder control. Usually it is just the amount of time they are holding it that matters. If your dog used to be able to hold it for 6-8 hours, that may shrink to 4-6 hours.
Never punish an older dog for an accident, as the bottom line is they just couldn’t hold it any longer. Instead try to make it so that your dog isn’t waiting so long to go. Give them more opportunities to go outside to do their business.
One of the things that you may notice in your senior dog, is that there food habits and likes may change. Most times, we give a dog kibble as the food of choice for their life but as a dog ages, just like humans, their food requirements change. Your dog will need healthier more nutritious food like super foods.
Many dog parents opt for a raw food diet that incorporates all these nutrients in a freeze dried food. The freeze drying process keeps all the nutrients in the food. This way your dog is getting everything they need.
Your senior dog may even decide that they don’t like their food anymore and refuse to eat. Providing you dog with a new fresh food option, may get them interested in food again. Eating regular healthy meals is so necessary for their overall health.
Our aging babies
Realizing that our dog babies are starting to age, can be a very difficult thing to come to terms with.
There are many early signs that you can watch for that may or may not happen to your dog. Ever dog is different, so when you do start to notice a few of the signs, please be patient and pay close attention.
With our 2 dogs, they were the best of friends right to the end. Even though they were both considered senior dogs, they each had very different aging signs. No 2 dogs age the same.
We have to start to realize that we will likely out live our pets, and as loving dog owners caring for them the best way possible is our job. Be watchful of changes, but most of all love them with all your heart.