Aging is inevitable in all living things. Dogs age much faster than humans, so changes in their physical and mental well-being can seem to come out of nowhere. Suddenly your fun loving and ready-for-anything buddy is reluctant to leave his warm bed on frosty mornings and takes his time climbing stairs. It may seem like a shock that your dog is suddenly a senior, but becoming a senior doesn't mean you and your dog can't enjoy several more good years together. It's important to understand that dogs undergo many changes as they age and become seniors. Here's what to expect as your dog enters the golden years.
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Arthritis is one of the most common conditions that can be associated with your dog's advancing age. Pain and stiffness will make it hard for a formerly boisterous dog to hop up and join in a jog. In severe cases, it may even make your dog reluctant to move much at all. Cold and damp weather tend to make the condition worse.
Arthritis can be treated, however, so don't just write of your dog's reluctance to exercise as being normal for their age. Make an appointment with your veterinarian. They can confirm the diagnosis of arthritis (many other conditions cause similar symptoms) and then recommend a variety of treatment options, which may include weight management, medications to reduce pain and inflammation, nutritional supplements, physical therapy, cold laser sessions, acupuncture, physical therapy, and more.
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Hearing loss is one of those age-related hurdles that you and your dog may have to face. The loss is usually gradual, and as you notice that your dog is becoming less responsive to verbal commands, you will have to adapt to using hand signals and other non-verbal cues. Other simple hacks can make life easier too. For example, never sneak up on a dog that is hard of hearing, but stomp your feet so they can feel the vibrations in the floor. Deaf dogs do very well in most households, so don't look at this as the end of the world for your older dog. It's more likely to bother you than your dog.
Your dog's vision may also start to decline with age, but this can be related to cataracts or some other condition and not just age. It's always best to double check with your veterinarian if you notice a change in your dog's hearing or eyesight.
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Canine cognitive dysfunction, which is similar to dementia, is a relatively common occurrence in aging dogs. Your dog may forget where they are at times or fail to recognize people they have known their whole life. The formerly house-trained may suddenly start having accidents in the house. This can be frustrating for both you and your dog.
There is no cure for cognitive dysfunction in dogs. However, there is hope. Treatments for dementia in dogs are available and include medications and nutritional supplements that can help slow the process and improve the symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction.
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Your dog may act like a grumpy old fart at times, becoming irritated a lot easier than before. Patience tends to wear thin faster in older dogs. They may not appreciate a lot of rambunctiousness like kids jumping, running, and yelling. It's important that your dog has a quiet spot to retreat to whenever necessary, and that your kids (and everyone else!) know not to bother them when in that spot.
However, changes in temperament like this can be seen with health problems like canine cognitive dysfunction or anything causing pain. Before you accept your older dog's crankiness as the new normal, make an appointment with your veterinarian.