Dogs and Aging
As with people, it is normal to see physical changes occur as a dog ages. Teeth turn yellow and worn; coats thin and lose their shine. Pupils of the eyes have a bluish-gray cast or milky appearance instead of black. Muscles lose tone and agility. If your dog has ever had medical problems with an organ, such as a kidney infection as a younger dog, as he ages, this organ might become a weak spot.
Be vigilant. Look for any suspicious changes of behavior or appearance in your senior citizen dog. Senior citizen dogs need regular and thorough veterinary checkups every six months. A complete blood analysis should be done at that time.
Here is a list of danger signs that necessitate a trip to the veterinarian:
- Frequent vomiting
- Weight loss or weight gain of 10% body weight
- Increased water intake
- Change in appetite (increase or decrease)
- Diarrhea, soft stools or bloody stools
- Frequent urination, increased or decreased quantity of urine or change in housebreaking habits
- Incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine) in female dogs
- Blood in urine (male dogs)
- Hearing loss
- Panting or labored breathing during exercise
- Lameness or weakness of the limbs
- Vision loss, opaque film on eyes or dryness of the eyes
- Dry, flaky, dull coat. Areas of hair loss.
- Black or brown matter in the ears
- Masses, lumps or bumps underneath the skin
- Loose or broken teeth, bad breath, inflamed or bleeding gums. Difficulty chewing food.
- Change in energy level (lethargic or hyperactive)
- Irritability or crankiness
- Head tilting or leaning to one side, loss of balance
- Fleas or ticks
The most common illnesses that affect senior citizen dogs are kidney disease, heart disease, hyperthyroidism and dental problems.
The average life expectancy for a dog varies widely. However, if properly cared for, many dogs can live fourteen or fifteen years. As a rule, smaller breeds have a longer life span than large and giant breeds. Dogs that are spayed or neutered before six months of age usually have longer life expectancy than intact ones. For small breed dogs under 20 pounds, old age happens around twelve years of age, 20-50 pound dogs, around 10 years of age, 50-90 pound dogs, around eight to nine years of age and 90 plus pounds, around seven to eight years of age.
Some breeds can be particularly long-lived. There are many documented cases of , Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, American Foxhounds and others living twenty years or even more, although fifteen to seventeen years is the norm. Large and medium breeds have a life expectancy of eleven to fourteen years. For the giant breeds, such as Great Danes and St. Bernards, less than ten years is the norm, thirteen or fourteen years is exceptional.