Taking care of older dogs is a challenge. As with humans, old age in dogs comes with a higher risk for both mental and physical ailments. For owners of older dogs, it’s important to be informed in order to ensure that your canine companion can stay healthy and happy as they age.
My dog Charlie has been with my family for almost fourteen years. During that time, he has knocked over roughly five thousand trash cans, messed up the rug countless times, and gleefully pounced on every guest we’ve ever had.
He’s mellowed out, as older dogs do, but nothing we’ve had to deal with from him in the past thirteen years has quite matched the worry that comes with having to take care of him now.
Your Dog May Be Reaching Old Age Before You Realize It
According to the American Veterinary Association, small dogs are considered geriatric by the age of 7. Larger dogs, who tend to have shorter lifespans, are considered geriatric by the age of 6.
Older Dogs Have Weaker Immune Systems
This means they may be at a higher risk for disease and may have a harder time fighting off diseases than younger dogs. It’s important that older dogs have semi-annual trips to the vet, in order to ensure that any illnesses are noticed and dealt with as quickly as possible.
Behavioral Change Could Mean Physical Problems
As a rule, older dogs are at a higher risk for health problems like arthritis, joint degradation, or senility. Owners of older dogs should pay careful attention to their dog’s behavior. If you notice any marked behavioral changes in your pet — for example, if they have trouble moving or seem unusually agitated — it’s a good idea to take those problems to the vet.
Older Dogs will Have Less Energy
They may need to sleep more, be less active, or move slower than they used to. If your dog is sleeping for most of the day or has more trouble with the stairs than they usually do, it’s not necessarily a problem.
The Saying Isn’t Necessarily True; You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
In fact, Mythbusters tested out this old idiom and found it to be false. In many ways, older dogs were actually easier to teach than puppies because older dogs were calmer and better at following directions.
Many Older Dogs Are at a Higher Risk for Mental Ailments, Including Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome
Older dogs who suffer from CCDS may experience troubles with learning and memory, along with sleep cycle disruptions and increased anxiety. If your dog shows signs of CCDS, talk to your veterinarian. There is no cure for CCDS, but there are several medications and diets that can lessen the damage and make life easier for your dog.
As your dog gets older, they might need more care and attention than they used to. With the right information, however, dog owners can ensure that their dogs stay happy and healthy in their twilight years.