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The average lifespan of dogs can be very variable from breed to breed, and of course, even within dogs of the same breed. As a whole, our dogs are living for longer these days than they did historically, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine and a better understanding of nutrition and appropriate care on the part of dog owners.
This means that more dogs are living to old age today than ever before, and that dogs need special care and consideration when they to reach their senior years.
The average lifespan across the board for dogs is around 12 years old, although this is a very broad figure. Not all dogs will live that long, particularly those from generally short-lived breeds, although a lot of dogs live well past this figure and into their late teens or even older in some notable if rare cases!
Caring for and managing the life of a dog over the age of around ten is something that requires vigilance and forward planning, in order to keep your dog happy, support their health, and ensure that they are comfortable.
In this article we will explain some of the most important things to bear in mind if you’re caring for a dog over the age of 10. Read on to learn more.
Our brains slowly begin to lose their acuity as we age, and the same is true for dogs. This is, for many dogs, a very gradual and subtle decline that might not be obvious, but for some dogs, the onset of old age and brain aging can be rather faster. Brain aging can lead to your dog being forgetful, suffering from confusion, and potentially, developing a canine form of dementia.
Being vigilant to changes that indicate the gradual decline of brain aging that accompanies old age can help you to get ahead of them, and take steps to make your dog’s life easier. You might also want to speak to your vet about supplements and nutrition that can help.
Your dog’s senses will start to decline as they age, and again, this is often very gradual. Loss of hearing or eyesight are common, and among the most obvious things you may notice. Take this into account and make it easier for your dog to get around if their eyes are failing them by keeping walkways clear, and not rearranging things so that your dog can’t work their way around obstacles they aren’t expecting.
If your dog appears to be going deaf, take this into account too and don’t scold them if they don’t follow commands or respond quickly enough, because they might simply not have heard you.
Brain aging, declining senses and age-related aches and pains can all produce potential behavioural changes in your dog, which is one of the main things you should accommodate for if your dog is over the age of 10.
This may mean that your dog is less keen to play, more reluctant to socialise with dogs they don’t know, or that they may become more irritable than normal. Your dog is also likely to slow down somewhat, and be less active and want to walk and exercise less than before.
Joint stiffness and bone and joint conditions like arthritis afflict many elderly dogs, and if your dog shows signs of stiffness or joint discomfort, you should work with your vet to develop a regime to ease their pain and keep them mobile.
Look for signs like stiffness when walking, problems getting up and down, and other indicators that your dog’s movement isn’t as free as it was.
If your dog does have a bone or joint condition, you might need to make some alterations to enable your dog to get around more easily. This may mean incorporating ramps to get your dog in and out of the car or up and down steps, and ensuring that your floors aren’t slippery so that your dog is not at risk of slipping over on them.
Old dogs can and do learn new tricks, but you do need to manage your expectations in this respect. Older dogs will usually take longer to learn a new command, and in some cases, they might not be able to learn it properly and execute it reliably. You might also find that your senior dog is slower to respond to commands they know well, and that they might forget commands that are not used regularly.
Try to spend a few minutes every day training your dog and refreshing their skills, to help to keep them sharp.
You should work with your vet to develop an appropriate feeding plan for an elderly dog, because old dogs need nutrition that is specially designed to support their needs. There are also other factors to bear in mind here too, such as if your dog’s teeth are beginning to weaken and they have problems eating hard food, or if they need a special prescription diet to support an ongoing heath condition.
When your dog reaches old age, it is a good idea to schedule a veterinary check up for them every six months rather than every year, so that you and your vet can monitor your dog’s health and any changes.
You might also want to ask your vet to run a blood and urinalysis profile on your dog when they enter old age, to identify any problems or anomalies early on when the chances of being able to treat or manage them are much higher.
Having this baseline profile performed will prove to be valuable in the future too, and re-testing every couple of years or as warranted in the interim will provide you with a point of comparison to identify changes, again, giving you and your vet a head start on tackling them.
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