Like people, every dog ages differently. Individual breeds even age differently, based on their size, life expectancy, and common health problems.
Irish wolfhounds, for example, have a life expectancy of about seven years, while daschunds and miniature poodles can live up to fourteen years.
As your dog ages, you should be prepared for certain health and behavior changes. Here are a few signs to look for in an aging pet and what you can do to address them.
All dogs change as they age. They have less energy than they did as a puppy and are happier to lounge around and take naps.
However, some behavior changes may be signs of a deeper cognitive problem.
A dog with cognitive dysfunction may appear confused at times. Their confusion may show through in other ways, even if it doesn't seem like confusion. If your dog urinates around the house, doesn't seem to remember cues they once knew, or stays awake pacing at night, these are all signs of cognitive issues.
That said, don't limit your checklist to obvious behaviors. If your dog is acting strangely or seems wary for little apparent reason, talk to your vet right away.
Vision and Eye Problems
Owners of today are willing to pay more than they ever have for veterinary care. That can be a good thing for dogs, if you catch issues early and take the right steps to mitigate health issues.
For example, vision problems are common among aging dogs, just like aging humans. However, you may not recognize the signs as easily as you would in a human.
Does your dog bump into things? Does he have trouble tracking things with his eyes? Do his eyes suddenly look cloudy? Do his eyes look irritated?
If so, he may be suffering from vision loss or an eye disorder.
Vision deterioration is a natural part of the aging process for dogs, but some eye disorders are treatable. Cataracts, which can cloud your dog's eyesight, can be treated with surgery. Talk to your vet about treatment options for your dog.
Joint Pain and Stiffness
Finally, joint pain and stiffness is another incredibly common sign of an aging dog.
Dogs instinctively hide when they're in pain to prevent being ejected from the pack, so it may be difficult to notice joint pain and stiffness at first. However, you may notice that your dog is less and less mobile, especially after walks or long periods of staying still.
The best way to mitigate the effects of joint deterioration is to maintain an exercise schedule. However, long walks will only cause your dog more pain. Instead, go for multiple short walks in a day that won't wear out your dog in one go.
Your vet may be able to provide joint health supplements, or even minor painkillers, to reduce the effects of joint pain.
Know What Warning Signs to Look for in an Aging Pet
Your pet is a part of your family. And just like you would care for an aging relative, you should be ready to help your pet age with grace and comfort. Knowing the signs to look for in an aging pet is the first step.
And remember, your dog is worth celebrating now as much as ever, so make the most of the time you have together.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to encourage treatment or diagnosis of any animal medical condition. For medical advice, contact your veterinarian.