Your dog may not be himself lately. He’s been acting lethargic, and it seems the years of training have gone out the window. This isn’t entirely your dog’s fault. Like humans, aging can take a toll on dogs. Dogs can develop many of the same issues humans develop while they age such as hearing problems, cancer, and weakness. However, there are some signs your dog may be showing that you did not realize are signs of aging. Below is a comprehensive list of the most common signs of aging in dogs.
Loss of Hearing and Vision
You may have noticed that your dog has stopped responding to you or has stopped responding to the squeaking of his favorite toy. With old age, dogs often experience hearing loss. You can help your dog with his hearing loss by teaching him hand signals. Training him with these signals will be easier if you start early, as you have to teach them an association between a verbal command and a hand signal.
Old age often comes with vision problems as well. If you notice your dog’s eyes are getting cloudy, it’s time to take him to the vet. Cloudy eyes can be a sign of cataracts, glaucoma, or conjunctivitis and will need treatment. For many dogs, cloudy eyes are just a sign of old age, however, it’s good to be certain about the cause.
Urinary problems are most common with spayed females, however, any dog can be affected by it. Your dog may be suffering from incontinence due to fluctuating hormones, spinal or neurological problems, infection, disease, illness, or from difficulty moving.
Check with your vet to see what the cause may be. If your dog has a curable infection, such as a urinary tract infection, his incontinence can easily be fixed with antibiotics. To decrease accidents in the house, take your dog out more often. His continued accidents could be because he has to go more often or he may be having more difficulty holding it.
Bad breath comes from the build up of odor-producing bacteria in your dog’s mouth, lungs, or gut. If your dog consistently has bad breath, it may be a sign that you need to do something about it. Most cases of bad breath are caused by either dental or gum disease. However, sometimes it can be the root of a more severe issue.
Studies show that 80% of dogs start showing signs of gum disease by the time they are three years old, and unfortunately, the early signs are hard to spot. It’s important to check in with your vet when you start noticing his bad breath, as gum disease can lead to chronic pain and tooth loss. Schedule a professional tooth cleaning once a year and buy toys and treats that will help prevent the buildup of plaque.
Changes in Skin and Hair Coat
While petting your dog, you may have started to notice some changes in his skin and coat. Dry coat, itching, flakiness, hot spots, lumps, and hair loss are all signs that your dog is aging, and depending on the severity, you may need to make a trip to the vet. Try grooming your pet more frequently so you can feel for any bumps, flakiness, or dry coat. Most skin and hair conditions can be helped with an improved diet. Antioxidants, fatty acids, and protein will all help replenish your dog’s skin and coat to its original state.
You may also realize he is starting to get calluses around his elbows. This can happen to bigger dogs who lay down often on hard surfaces. You can help prevent these calluses by getting him a dog bed to lay down on. Another sign of aging is the hair around his face starting to turn gray.
Changes in Weight
You may notice your dog has put on weight or lost weight for seemingly no reason. Your walk schedule and feeding schedule hasn’t changed so why is his weight fluctuating? Metabolism changes are extremely common in aging dogs. You may need to adjust his diet to something with more or fewer calories depending on how his weight is fluctuating. You may also need to purchase food that is more gentle on his stomach and higher in nutrients.
Maintaining your dog’s exercise routine is essential to keeping his weight healthy, however, don’t overdo it. Keeping his weight normal is critical as dogs tend to get joint pain as they age and the less weight on his joints, the less strain he will feel. Also, overweight dogs can develop heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and other problems.
Your dog may have trouble getting around for a multitude of reasons. He may have developed rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or hip dysplasia. Getting ramps or orthopedic beds could help him with joint pain he may have.
You can also help with your dog’s pain by managing his weight. Light exercise and a healthy diet will make it easier for him to move around. Taking him on a walk or letting him swim in a pool are both great exercises for dogs with joint pain. You can also purchase an “egg crate” orthopedic dog bed that will help distribute his weight and make him more comfortable.
Behavior and Memory Problems
Unfortunately, dogs can develop dementia and other behavior and memory problems with age. As a matter of fact, more than half of dogs over ten years of age will experience signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). If you notice your dog is experiencing symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, memory loss, irritability, unusual pacing, or other personality changes you should go to your vet.
It’s better for these symptoms to be diagnosed earlier rather than later so you can get medicine. You can help prevent behavior and memory problems by actively interacting with your pet. Spend more time with your dog and give him a little extra love.
Brittle Nails and Thickened Foot Pads
You may have noticed that your dog’s paws aren’t what they used to be. You can help with his brittle nails by giving him supplements and clipping his nails on a regular basis. Upkeeping your dog’s nails is important as infections and injury can occur if they are not adequately cared for.
If your dog has thicker foot pads than usual, he may have developed hyperkeratosis. Hyperkeratosis comes from excess keratin on the foot pads. Keratin is naturally produced by the body to help protect nails, skin, hair, and foot pads. This condition is usually not an issue, however, if you have noticed your dog’s foot pads are extra thick, you may need to stop by the vet to have his foot pads filed down. If you are concerned about hyperkeratosis, there are products you can buy that help maintain your dog’s keratin production.
Decreased activity and poor muscle tone in the GI tract can lead to older dogs becoming constipated. Hip dysplasia can also prevent your dog from wanting to go to the bathroom as it causes him pain. If you have noticed that your pet is constipated, take him to the vet as it could be a sign of something serious. Feeding your dog a high fiber diet and ensuring he drinks plenty of water will help him with this problem.
As dogs age, it becomes difficult for them to regulate their internal temperature. Because of this, your dog may become more sensitive to the temperature outside. He may not be able to stand the snow anymore, or maybe those walks in July are just too hard on him. You can help him feel more comfortable by moving his bed closer to a heater in winter or closer to a fan in summer.
With an aging dog, the most important things to focus on are a good diet, regular exercise, and lots of affection. Check-ups with the vet will ensure that minor complications are not a symptom of a more serious problem. Making your dog comfortable with his old age will help elongate his life and keep him happy. Remember to take him on light walks, give him nutritious food, and give him extra belly rubs.