Aging is a part of life for all species, including canines. Just like humans, dogs’ bodies and brains show the signs of aging; in a lot of ways, those signs are very similar to their human counterparts. If your pooch is getting on in years, it’s very likely that he isn’t going to be as vivacious and chipper as he was in his formative years. While the sight of his dog collar or dog harness might still get him excited, he’s probably going to go at a much slower pace than he did in his youth. Though he may still enjoy playing with his interactive dog toys, his puzzle toys for dogs, his rope and tug toys, his plush dog toys (and whatever other types of play things he has), he might spend most of his time snoozing away in his dog bed than he does playing fetch. He may start having a difficult time getting up onto the couch or into the car and might even need the assistance of a dog steps and stairs.
While it’s totally natural for a dog’s abilities, interests, energy levels, and even eating habits to change as he grows older, it can be hard to determine if these changes are, in fact, related to aging or if they are the side effects of an illness. If you’ve noticed a definite difference in your pet’s disposition, health, and overall well-being, you might be asking yourself, “Is it just because he’s getting older, or is he suffering from an illness?”
Here’s how to tell the difference…
Is It Aging or an Illness?
How can you tell if the changes in your pooch are related to his age or if they are the side effects of an illness? The first (and most obvious) thing to do is consider his age. According to veterinarians, dogs that are in the last quarter (25 percent) of their life expectancy are considered seniors. While lifespan does vary from breed to breed, dogs that are between the ages of 9 and 11 have reached their golden years; however, do keep in mind that giant breeds, who have a shorter life expectancy, are considered seniors at a much younger age (it really stinks that dogs don’t live longer!)
So, with your pet’s age in mind, now consider the signs and symptoms that he is presenting. If he is in his senior years and he’s showing any of the following, it’s likely because of his age:
- Decreased mobility, which could be the result of arthritis, hip dysplasia, or just basic joint stiffness
- Forgetfulness; he seems to forget where he is or what he was doing (yes, it happens to canines, too)
- Changes in disposition; he’s more mellow than he was in his youth or conversely, he’s snappier now than he was when he was a pup
- Disinterest; he shows very little interest in interacting with others or playing with his toys; even is most beloved rubber dog toys
- Incontinence; you need to use dog potty pads, even though he’s been fully housebroken for years
- Changes in appetite; he isn’t as excited about eating, or it takes him a lot longer to eat
Generally, these symptoms are not uncommon in older dogs and usually aren’t associated with an illness; however, do keep in mind that if there’s a sudden onset of several of these symptoms, even if your pup is older, an underlying illness could be to blame. If you’re questioning your dog’s overall health, even if he is a senior, take him to the vet. A thorough assessment will determine the cause of the changes your furry pal is experiencing.
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