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The Old Dog
Old age - when does it start?
For purposes of showing dogs, they are classed as veterans at 7 yrs of age. Some dogs are still virtual puppies at this age while others may be starting to slow down. The smaller breeds, with lifespans up to 16 and maybe more years, tend to live longer than large and giant breeds, which may only survive 10 or 11 yrs, though some do much better than this.
Quality of life is as important as quantity and the dog which has been plagued by ill health or continual stress cannot expect to have a long or healthy old age.
Changes that occur with aging.
One of the most obvious signs of aging is a general slowing down, some joint stiffness, loss of muscle mass and tone. The aging dog prefers shorter walks, may puff a little and likes to sleep more. His muzzle may become grey , coat may be thinner and either dry or greasier than usual, some dryness or roughness of the nose, skin is thinner with some loss of elasticity and maybe some dryness or flakiness. Small lumps (cysts or growths) may appear in the skin.
Glandular and organ activity will slow down and this may be responsible for some of the changes that you notice, including perhaps a dislike of cold weather. A slowing of metabolism may also cause a decreased tolerance to drugs, including vaccines.
He may gain some weight as his activity levels decrease, or he may gradually lose some weight and condition if his appetite decreases, or if he develops specific health problems..
The nervous system changes may cause loss of sight, smell, hearing, perhaps some irritability or absentmindedness, eg. he may not want to bother with grooming, or he forgets that he has eaten and comes in looking for his dinner three or four times a day.
Talking of dinner, there may be some degree of gum inflammation, tartar or tooth decay, wearing or loss of teeth. Saliva production may decrease and the mouth looks dry.
These changes, together with digestive system inefficiencies, not to mention decreasing activity levels, may cause some loss of appetite and constipation.
Prostate enlargement or loss of bladder control may occur, possibly with some degree of kidney failure.
This all sounds grim and is probably not a complete list ! but these changes are part of the natural aging process and occur over several years. However if your dog displays any changes suddenly, have your vet check him out in case there is a health problem.
With good care, food and love, your dog will enjoy his advancing years and should live to a ripe old age.
Copyright, Stella Hughes
Napier, New Zealand
Senior dog sites on the WWW. The last recommended site is courtesy of a Retriever breeder, but full of good ideas for activities for your old dog, to keep him active and enjoying life.
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