Just like people, dogs show certain signs of aging that are a completely normal part of life. Although you may want to pay closer attention and change certain things to make sure your pooch is still living comfortably, you should typically expect your dog to be the same ol’ canine companion you’ve always had. If you’re concerned you don’t know what a healthy aging process looks like, or you have never shared your home with a senior dog, be sure to become familiar with this list.
#1 – Graying
Just as humans begin to see changes in their hair color, dogs will too. You might notice that your dog’s once beautiful black mask has become an endearing gray beard. Coat color can change anywhere on the body, but is most often observed first on the face and paws.
#2 – Decreased Mobility
A decrease in mobility is very common in aging dogs. Whether they’re experiencing arthritis for the first time and have late onset joint diseases, older dogs are susceptible to feeling uncomfortable with movement. There may be less jumping on the couch and walking up steps than there used to be.
#3 – Calluses
Dogs can develop calluses anywhere on their bodies, but we most commonly see them where there’s a lot of friction. For example, most dogs will develop calluses on their elbows and hocks from laying on hard flooring over time. As dogs age, they’re less active and the increase in rest often brings larger or new calluses.
#4 – Dental Disease
Even with regular dentals throughout the life of your pooch, older dogs are more likely to develop dental disease. However, dogs that have not received regular dental care often have signs of early dental disease by age 3, so you can only imagine what a senior’s teeth and gums might look like.
#5 – Incontinence
It’s very common for aging dogs to become incontinent for a variety of reasons and it’s very important not to scold them. Senior dogs are almost never acting in disobedience; instead, they’re often not able to make it outside soon enough, have weakened bladder and bowel muscles or are often in too much pain to squat.
#6 – Constipation
On the opposite hand, aging dogs are also likely to experience constipation. This is because the gastrointestinal system is weakened and doesn’t move as quickly as it used to. We know that being active is likely to increase the chances of our dogs going potty and because older dogs are less active, this could play a part in their constipation.
#7 – Hearing Loss
Common in all species, hearing loss is to be expected as dogs age. Although it happens earlier in some than others, there comes a point in a senior dog’s life in which they’ll no longer be able to fully hear. There are many considerations to be taken with a deaf dog and it’s important to take special care that you don’t startle your older pup.
#8 – Vision Loss
Along with hearing loss, vision loss is very common in aging dogs. Although it can be brought on by diseases unrelated to age, vision loss happens in almost all senior dogs. Living with a partially or fully blind dog can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible and many do it for years.
#9 – Sensitivity to Temperature Changes
As dogs age, their bodies begin to change. The ability to regulate their body temperatures decreases and they become more susceptible to both heat stroke and hypothermia. Extra care should be taken in the warmest and coolest months to keep our senior dogs healthy and comfortable.
#10 – Weight Changes
As dogs become older, their nutritional needs change. Many owners don’t realize that they should be changing the diet of their senior dog and both weight gain and weight loss can occur. If senior dogs are fed the same portions as young dogs, they’ll become obese because of their decreased activity levels. On the contrary, many dogs develop thyroid or muscle wasting diseases as seniors that could lead significant weight loss. Working with your veterinarian and your own judgment about your dog’s body will keep them happy and healthy.
#11 – Suppressed Immune System
Many owners feel that their senior dogs have more health problems than younger dogs and this is partially true. As dogs age, their immune system weakens and they’re more likely to become affected by small illnesses they used to be able to beat by themselves. Many older dogs seem to have more trouble with allergies, colds and infections.
#12 – Behavioral Changes
There are a number of reasons for a senior dog to change behavior and their health and comfort should first be evaluated by a veterinarian before any training is recommended. Senior dogs may experience dementia, just like people, and can become confused even in their own homes. They may become less social because of arthritis pain, they may feel uncomfortable and even embarrassed because of incontinence and hearing and vision loss can also bring about behavioral changes. The most important thing is to address why we think these behavioral changes are happening and then decide how to proceed.