Age comes to us all in the end despite our best efforts and our pets are no different. The age at which your dog is considered old will vary according to the breed. Larger dogs age faster than the toy breeds and therefore have a shorter lifespan. The larger breeds are considered old around the age of 5years, medium size breeds around the age of 8 years and for toy breeds 10 years of age is considered old.
Signs of Old Age
The signs of aging in dogs are very similar to that of humans. They are likely to be slower when moving around and less eager to run and chase or will only be able to do physical activities in shorter spurts than before. A more visible sign of aging is that your dog’s fur may start going grey, usually around the muzzle area and the eyebrows and ears, just like us. In addition to these signs, if you find your dog doesn’t respond to commands as quickly as he used to, or you find you are able to eat certain foods without him knowing, then it’s possible that his senses are becoming dull and his hearing and sense of smell are becoming impaired. Likewise if he starts to stumble, this may be a sign of arthritis but it could also signify that his sight is failing and he is misjudging his own movements. All of these things are perfectly normal and may be seen in varying degrees depending on your dog. One other unfortunate sign of aging is have less control over bowel and bladder movements; however there is medication available that will enable this to be controlled and unless it becomes a serious issue is not a reason for the dog to be put down.
How You Can Help
Make sure you take your dog for regular check-ups at the vet. Illnesses are harder to recover from the older the dog is so prevention is the key to a long and healthy life. Consider changing your dog’s diet to meet his changing nutritional needs, as he is likely to need more vitamins and minerals in his diet so supplement those that his body no longer makes in sufficient quantities.
Tailor your dog’s exercise routine to meet the change in his ability. Shorten the walks, and slow them down a little, and if he still likes to play fetch, don’t throw the ball too far.
If your dog has to negotiate stairs in your home, think about putting ramps in or moving everything your dog needs to an area where he doesn’t have to use the stairs. Even a small step or two can be painful if your dog suffers from arthritis or rheumatism.
When you are stroking or grooming your dog, be gentle, his bones are more fragile than they used to be and rather than encourage him to jump up to you, why not go down to him. These are just a few of the many things you can do to make your dog’s old age happy and healthy, it’s a precious time for both of you – enjoy it.