The aging processes we see in dogs are the same difficulties we humans also suffer from. "Wait a minute, isn't age just a number?" Well it is in some ways, but the aging process is inevitable and will vary in each individual pet depending on: breed, genetics, preexisting conditions and injuries, physical and emotional environment, diet, etc...
There are many physical changes that you as an owner will see in your aging dog. Some of the aging changes can be noticed from ages 5-7 years and older. When compared to a youthful dog, an elderly dog will experience changes in:
Arthritis: The most common reason older pets do not "get around" like they used to. The wear and tear on joint surfaces can really restrict movement and be a sense of discomfort and pain.
Behavior: An older pet may withdraw, appear edgy or nervous, lack of awareness and mental alertness decreases along with the senses; hearing, vision, smell, taste become impaired.
Circulatory: The ability to exchange and deliver oxygenated blood as efficiently may be compromised by the aging process due to changes in heart rhythm, cardiac output changes, blood pressure and blood vessel changes.
Digestive: Movement of food along the digestive tract may be slowed which results in constipation and other digestive pathologies. Digestive enzymes from the stomach and pancreas often are not secreted in proper amounts to fully digest the food. This results in loose stools and a decrease in nutrient uptake. Occasional incontinence of urine and bowel can occur due to neurological changes and bladder and bowel tone changes.
Eyes: Glaucoma and cataracts may occur in which certain breeds have a greater tendency to develop.
Kidneys: As the pet ages, the ability to filter the blood from toxins and normal metabolism may become compromised resulting in Uremic Poisoning. This usually progresses slowly as the dog begins to lose interest in food, drinks more water, urinates more frequently, and eventually begins to vomit due to the nausea.
Metabolism Rate: The chemical, hormonal, physiological process can decreases by 30% or more.
Skin and Coat: The skin is more susceptible to infection, less elasticity, and becomes thinner.
Teeth: Infected gums and teeth can be a painful site, but also an infected mouth can seed bacteria into the blood stream to be carried throughout the body resulting in heart and kidney pathology making the pet very ill.
Please see you veterinarian for any of the above conditions should one arise ASAP!
So, sit back, enjoy your pet....these unconditional souls were given by the great one above us, to love, protect, and care for. Let your pet visit doctors as needed, enjoy retirement; collect social security, pensions, and coupons, be stubborn and finicky, and whine and bark when it wants to.... Ruff!.....
Steven B. Wasserman, RN, DC, CVCP www.caninechiro.com Serving the Long Beach/Orange County and surrounding areas.