When Is A Dog “Old”?
Many of us think of “dog years” as 1 year for every 7 years of human life. This isn’t really accurate. A dog’s average life span depends on its breed, size, genetics, nutrition and overall care. Small dogs tend to live longer than large dogs, but not all dogs age at the same rate. An average age for domestic dogs is about 12 or 13 years. Some dogs live to 20 years, while others naturally pass at 7 or 8. Most giant breeds are considered old at 7 or 8 years of age. Medium-sized dogs are seniors at 10 years of age, and tiny toy breeds aren’t senior until they are 12 or 13 years old. A dog’s actual age depends on its genetics, breed, nutrition, state of health and living environment.
What Are The Signs Of Aging?
A dog that is “getting old” may show one or more of the following signs:
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
- Labored breathing
- Exercise intolerance
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Elevated heart rate
- Lumps or bumps
- Aimless wandering
Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a recently recognized condition in dogs that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people. Affected dogs have a decline in thinking, recognition, memory and learned behaviors. They tend to be more sedentary, less energetic, less curious and less enthusiastic than younger dogs. They are slower to adjust to changes in activity, diet and daily routines and sleep more than they used to.
What Is Happening To My Aging Dog?
Age causes the same things in dogs that it does in people. Old animals lose strength and flexibility, have less resistance to temperature extremes, are increasingly susceptible to infectious diseases and experience gradual deterioration of their vital organs. They may lose hearing, eyesight or the ability to control their bladder or bowels. Well cared-for dogs have fewer age-related problems than dogs that are neglected or abused, regardless of their genetics. Aging is an extremely complex process that can’t be simplified. Aging dogs need dietary management, a comfortable environment, exercise appropriate for their abilities and regular veterinary health checks.
Should I Get A Puppy?
Sometimes, we think about bringing a puppy into the household when our dog is getting older. This can be rejuvenating for the geriatric family member. Many older dogs enjoy the companionship of a frisky puppy; it can make them more puppy-like themselves, with renewed interest in playing, romping and just generally getting up and about. Occasionally, an aging dog doesn’t enjoy the exuberance of a puppy or the attention it receives. Special care and attention should be given to older dogs any time a new pet is added to the family, to prevent jealousy and other potential problems.
What Should I Feed My Old Dog?
One of the most common health problems in older dogs is obesity. As dogs age, their metabolism slows down and they become less active, which contributes to weight gain. Many owners don’t recognize that their dogs are becoming “fat,” and that this condition can be extremely detrimental to their health. Overweight dogs have less resistance to infectious diseases and don’t live as long as dogs kept in lean condition. Proper weight is maintained by a good diet and regular exercise. Owners control their dogs’ food intake. A gradual diet change and increased exercise will help overweight dogs trim down. Treats should be low-calorie, like carrots or apple slices. There are a number of foods made specifically to address the needs of geriatric dogs. A veterinarian is the best person to address an aging dog’s diet.
What Should I Do If My Older Dog Has Trouble Moving?
Mobility issues are common in aging dogs, usually caused by arthritis or other joint-related disorders. Their hips and shoulders can just get sore. Older dogs should be encouraged to exercise, if they are able and willing. Most old dogs retain their enthusiasm for going out on short walks or for a car ride. These activities should be encouraged.