How to keep your senior dog active and engagedJanuary 10, 2024
Ever observe your dog exhibiting a less enthusiasm, perhaps some quieter moments, or hesitating to tag along on your walks? As our furry friends age, much like us, they encounter various health issues that could easily be dismissed as typical signs of aging.
Senior Paws has consulted with an experienced veterinarian, William Smith of the Pet Hospital Waterford, to shed light on Health Issues Often Overlooked in Older Dogs.
Older dogs may become silent, reduce activity, be less willing to go for walks, spend a lot of time lying down, and may even show disinterest in playing. People often assume that 'the dog is just getting old, so it lies in bed all day.' While this statement is somewhat correct, it is not a precise diagnosis in itself. Typically, there may be comorbidities, where one issue triggers another, ultimately manifesting similar symptoms. There are two types of diseases in senior dogs that deserve owners' closer attention; here we will explore dental hygiene and mobility.
Dental issues are prevalent, affecting approximately 70% of dogs aged three and above, reaching 100% in those over ten years old. Dogs with dental problems may become quiet, avoid barking, skip meals, and refrain from scratching their mouths, often hiding in bed. Owners might not realize their dogs are in pain because they don't display overt signs like yelping or stopping eating; instead, they quietly endure discomfort.
Dental conditions manifest through signs such as gum inflammation, discoloration, plaque, or calculus on the gums, discolored teeth, and bad breath. In addition, dogs with tooth-root abscesses, a common concern, may constantly lick their mouths and emit an unpleasant odor. If left untreated, this condition can lead to the spread of infection and eventual tooth loss.
After undergoing dental procedures and treatments, dogs give positive feedback, with owners reporting a significant improvement in their dogs' quality of life post-surgery.
Vet William shared about one of his patients, a little Bichon Frise that had just been groomed, adorned with a delightful bow on its head. However, when lifting the dog's lip, he discovered serious dental issues. Numerous instances involve dogs experiencing pain due to a tooth-root abscess. After undergoing a dental procedure, these dogs, previously in evident distress and constantly displaying signs of discomfort in their mouths, undergo a remarkable transformation, typically regaining vitality.
The owners often come back to me and say that their dog has a new lease on life. I don't know what you did, but all of a sudden, he's playing again!"
While some pet owners may feel anxious about dental surgery due to the anesthesia involved, it becomes essential when weighing the overall benefits against potential risks. For instance, dogs with heart or lung conditions might not be suitable candidates, relying instead on antibiotics or pain relief. Keep in mind that even for dogs undergoing dental surgery or those not consistently maintaining oral hygiene, dental issues can resurface within six months.
To prevent dental issues, proactive dental care is essential. Brushing your dog's teeth at least once a day, coupled with the use of dental sticks as a supplementary measure, significantly contributes to maintaining oral health.
Brushing pet’s teeth can be quite challenging. You don't need to get in the back and scrub away. The top two upper canine teeth are the most common areas where tartar tends to build up, and they're easily accessible. The earlier your pet grows accustom to the process you can try to reach those at the back of their mouth.”
Besides, regular dental check-ups preventive measures play a pivotal role in managing chronic pain and discomfort, ensuring a happier and healthier life for our beloved canine companions.
As dogs age, concerns about mobility arise due to the slowing of joints and the potential emergence of pain. Signs of reduced mobility include a quieter demeanor, reluctance to go for walks, and prolonged periods of lying down. The core causes are diverse, encompassing issues such as dental problems, heart disease, back pain, and difficulties with eating due to liver or kidney problems. Furthermore, the common symptom of lethargy associated with liver disease adds complexity to determining the specific cause. However, joint problems are identified as the primary factor contributing to the decline in mobility in senior dogs.
To support senior dogs with reduced mobility and ensure they stay active without causing harm, a range of medical interventions is available. Maintaining an optimal weight is important, as excess weight can exacerbate joint problems. In addition, physiotherapy, which includes exercises in a pool or tank, proves beneficial for dogs with arthritis, offering muscle stimulation without putting undue stress on the joints.
Various medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and newer treatments like Librela, effectively address arthritis and joint-related issues in senior dogs. While the impact of medications such as NSAIDs can vary between species, thoughtful consideration for dogs is essential. Additionally, some owners have found value in joint supplements, observing benefits in addressing these issues.
William also encourages owners of senior dogs to keep in mind that as our furry friends age, it's important to adjust our expectations and activities to match their reduced abilities. Older dogs might not need those long walks, and pushing them too hard can do more harm than good. Instead, letting them set the pace, whether it's a leisurely stroll around the garden or a relaxed car ride for exploration, can make their elderly life more enjoyable and also help boost their mental stimulation.
It’s a period when the dog’s needs are changing, and they will need a bit of work done to them, a bit of looking after, and that can be very rewarding."
As our furry friends enter their golden years, the dog has an understanding of your routine and has established their routine; this can be a cherished time in the relationship. By being attuned to their unique requirements and addressing potential health issues proactively, we can ensure that our senior dogs continue to bring joy and companionship for years to come.