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Like people, dogs age. Many problems arise during that aging process that must be properly addressed. Dealing with canine aging issues in the proper way can ensure a more comfortable life for your dog in his golden years. Look for the signs of an aging dog that are described below and what some of them could mean.
One way to test your dog’s hearing is by watching how he responds to being called by name. Another key sign is when an older dog begins barking for no apparent reason. Discuss any changes in auditory response with your veterinarian.
Older dogs may have trouble with normal, everyday habits, such as house-training. Excessive thirst and frequent or uncontrolled urination may be a sign of kidney problems, heart problems or diabetes in an older dog. If your old dog starts to urinate inappropriately, he may be incontinent. Some medical conditions or hormonal imbalances may sometimes cause incontinence in dogs, too. Regular checkups will catch any serious conditions related to inappropriate elimination.
Older dogs sometimes begin to have problems with eating and chewing their food because they may develop painful tooth and gum conditions. Watch your dog eat, and if you notice food dropping from his mouth while he’s chewing, he may be having tooth and gum difficulties. This, however, can happen in dogs as young as 1 year old, not just older dogs. Dental health should be an important consideration at all ages.
A change in weight may occur in older dogs. Just like with humans, as a dog ages, his metabolism begins to slow down. Older dogs also may not be as active as they once were, so they have a tendency to gain weight. If you’re noticing that your dog has sudden weight loss or weight gain, take him to the veterinarian immediately for a checkup.
The general rule of thumb is the larger the dog, the shorter the lifespan. For example, a large dog breed, such as a Great Dane, is considered to be an old or geriatric dog by the age of 6. Smaller dogs, such as Poodles, may not show signs of aging until they reach 11 or 12 years old.
To help keep your dog healthy for as long as possible, keep the following nutrition and exercise advice in mind.
It’s important that your dog receive regular veterinary care and annual vaccinations and that he is eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Nutrition is extremely important to your dog's overall health and should be evaluated as he ages. Avoid giving your dog table scraps, and make sure his diet is correct for his size, breed, age and habits. Indoor and outdoor food formulas exist. If your dog begins experiencing medical problems, check with a veterinarian, who may recommend a specially formulated diet. Always discuss any dietary changes you might make with your veterinarian first.
Exercise is as important to your aging dog’s health as it was when he was younger. Stick with a daily routine, for both your dog’s physical and mental health. If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, discuss exercise with your veterinarian before starting new activities to ensure that the physical workout won't hurt your dog or worsen his arthritis.
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