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Dogs: What To Expect As They Get Older


The hardest part of owning a dog, besides potty and obedience training, is watching them get old. We want them to stay young forever; to be there with us as we get old. I certainly have experienced this with my first Sheltie, Alicia, and my last dog, Aspen. I grew up with Alicia and she with me. I saw her in her youth: running, walking, playing, and demonstrating an enthusiasm for life that I truly envied. Every day was a new day. Everything was fresh and new.

But suddenly, before I knew it, Alicia was moving slower, having difficulty navigating the stairs in our house, taking shorter walks, sleeping more than playing. It was then that I had to acknowledge that yes, my dog was getting older. This can be such a hard thing to accept (it certainly was for me) because when I finally started to admit that she was getting older I also had to admit that one day we would have to say goodbye to one another. For me, this is when the denial started to set in. There is nothing harder than saying goodbye, whether it be to a family member, friends or your furry companion. It’s one of life’s hardest lessons – nothing lasts forever.

So what should you expect as your dog gets older?

A change to her regular bathroom routine – As dogs age, they have a harder time holding it as long as they used to when they were younger. Chances are she will need to go to the bathroom more frequently. My Aspen experienced incontinence as she got older. I was willing to work around it, through mediation, but it’s something you need to be aware as your dog gets older.

Sensitivity to cold or heat – Older dogs have a much harder time with extreme cold or heat. Their bodies just can’t regulate as easily as when they were younger. As an owner, you will want to monitor your dog more closely when they are outside in these conditions and you will want to shorten your walks if you notice she is having a hard time.

Arthritis – In some dog breeds, this can be worse than others, but often you will notice it when your dog tries to get up or lie down or when he or she is going up stairs. He will have a more difficult time doing many other physical activities as well, including getting into taller vehicles. He may also have a harder time walking, and will walk slower than he did when he was younger. Keeping his nails clipped will help ease some walking issues, but consulting your vet about Glucosamine supplements or other options is a very good idea.

Increase in water intake – As your dog gets older, she has the potential to develop problems with her kidneys, liver or other organs. Many of these diseases can cause her to drink more water, so you will want to make sure you provide her with plenty of water as she gets older.

Loss of sight and sound -Just like our grandparents, older dogs often experience a loss of hearing and/or sight or both. Most often you will start to notice these changes when your dog starts sleeping more deeply than she did before. You may also notice that she doesn’t hear you when you enter the room or she may jump up suddenly and bark because she was startled when she didn’t hear you enter. Which leads me to the next change in behavior…

Barking more than usual – As your dog gets older and his hearing starts to go you may also notice an increase barking. Because your dog does not hear as well as he used to, he is more likely to be easily startled, especially if you come up behind him and he doesn’t hear you approaching. It can be scary to have someone suddenly appear behind you when you didn’t expect it! Your dog is going to be more easily startled out of a sound sleep as well. So, if you notice an increase in your dog’s barking, consider his age and whether or not his hearing is the issue.

There are plenty of other behavior changes that you should be aware of as your dog starts to age. Talk to your veterinarian about what to expect and what health issues commonly accompany older dogs.

Here are some great websites and articles for more info:
Caring for Senior Pets
How long pets live and why it matters anyway
Senior Dogs: Common Behavior Changes

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