Your dog has been a loving and loyal companion for many years. You've provided loving care to keep him happy and healthy in return. As a senior, his ability to fight diseases is diminished, and he will need you more than ever. Unfortunately, your furry friend cannot tell you when he's in pain or not feeling well, so you need to be alert to notice any physical or behavior changes that might signal problems. Here are three of the most common ailments in older dogs that you should be on the lookout for so you can quickly provide appropriate care.
Dogs that live to a ripe old age will almost inevitably have some degree of arthritis, also called degenerative joint disease. The most common cause is simple wear and tear on the joints in the back, hips, shoulders and knees. Over time, the cartilaginous lining of a joint wears away causing bones of the joint to rub together. This rubbing causes inflammation, pain and swelling.
Signs of arthritis usually come on gradually, and you may not notice them until the condition is advanced. That's why it's important to watch for the behavior changes associated with this disease. The sooner arthritis is diagnosed, the sooner you can provide pain relieve for your pup as well as slow the progress of the joint deterioration.
The first sign of arthritis will usually be a reluctance to move around as usual. You may notice stiffness after periods of sleep, and he may not jump on furniture or go up and down stairs as often or easily as he once did. Your once eager playmate may simply look at you forlornly when you invite him to play.
Your veterinarian will likely recommend dog food geared toward senior dogs. These diets are usually lower in calories with added supplements, such as glucosamine, MSM and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help slow the deterioration of the joint cartilage. He or she may also recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and warm compresses to ease your dog's pain. You can also make life easier on your friend by providing a comfortable, warm bed, using ramps to get on furniture and into the car, and using raised food and water bowls.
Diabetes in aging dogs is caused by a lack of insulin, which results in an excessive amount of glucose in the bloodstream. It typically strikes middle-aged or older dogs and is more common in unspayed females or obese dogs. Genetics can also play a role.
Symptoms of diabetes include fatigue, increased thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, vision problems, hair loss and wounds that don't heal.
Diabetes can't be cured, but it can be managed. Your vet can recommend a high-protein, high-fiber, low-carbohydrate dog food. Consistent feeding times and size of meals is important in controlling blood glucose levels, as is frequent, moderate exercise. You will also likely have to give insulin shots.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), also called canine dementia, is very similar to Alzheimer's in humans. It is thought to be caused by plaque deposits in the brain that affect thought processing and memory storage.
You may notice your dog sleeping more during the day and pacing at night. He may stare blankly into space, seem disoriented and perform repetitive movements, such as running in circles. He may forget common commands, his favorite toys or even his name. One of the most bothersome effects is that he may forget his housebreaking training and soil inside your home.
There is no cure for CCD, but a prescription drug called Selegiline increases the dopamine in a dog's brain, which helps your dog think more clearly and remember more. Other ways to help your dog cope with CCD include maintaining your dog's physical condition through regular exercise, keeping his mind active by teaching new commands or offering games such as treat-release balls, and providing lots of social interactions with you, other people and other pets. For easier navigation and confusion problems, clear pathways through your home and don't rearrange the furniture.
Take care of your loyal friend by staying in touch with a veterinarian like those at Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care, watching for signs of problems, and taking any actions that might make the last years of his life happier for both you and him.