VET’S VIEW: Caring for your dog as it gets older

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LIKE us, dogs slow down with age, exercise less and put on weight. Moods vary from being needier, to much less friendly, sometimes preferring to be on their own.

Aging means less energy is used up, with fat deposits increasing – often as fatty lumps on older dogs.

Bodyweight may rise or fall, skin loses elasticity, and white hairs appear on the muzzle.

Old dogs often sleep longer. Muscles and bones aren’t as strong and less effective immune systems means reduced protection against infections.

Internal organs such as heart, liver and kidneys weaken, too.

However, in the last few years we’ve enjoyed massive advances in vet treatments, meaning safe long-term drugs are available to help reduce old age effects, keeping our dogs happy, exercising, and living longer, healthier lives.

Feeding a senior diet containing fewer calories reduces weight gain, and take advantage of free weight checks offered by your vet – there is no excuse not to weigh your dog regularly, with weight loss/gain often indicating early signs of illness.Common signs of old age-related issues include reduced appetite, stiff joints (arthritis), increased drinking (diabetes, liver/kidney failure), smelly breath, losing weight, as well as lumps or bumps, hair loss, cataracts, coughing and lethargy (heart failure), exercise intolerance and increased tiredness (hypothyroidism), coughing, difficulty passing urine or faeces as well as urinary incontinence/leakage, becoming dull, disorientated or having trouble with balance. Cancer can also affect older dogs. Aging dogs suffering bad teeth and infected gums will be uncomfortable and at risk from serious infection, potentially damaging other organs.

Most owners find their dogs much happier after dentistry, so ask your vet for details as general anaesthetics are much safer nowadays.

Finally please don’t forget that older dogs still need regular boosters for vaccinations, plus flea and worming treatments, too.