It cannot be stressed enough that your dog needs to have regular and thorough check ups with your veterinary surgeon, and at least twice a year if not more, so as to pick up the signs and symptoms of ageing and its attendant problems of degeneration.
How quickly your dog reaches physical old age will of course depend on his breed and the quality of the food he eats. Many veterinary experts believe that ordinary dog food contains ingredients and additives that may contribute to degenerative disease and premature aging, so always keep an eye on the quality of his food throughout his life and think about introducing even healthier options as he starts to age. After all, feeding him what his body needs will keep his bones and tissues in excellent condition so that he doesn’t have to suffer uncomfortable or even painful conditions that will reduce the quality of his life.
Have a talk with your vet about the right balance of nutrients your senior dog needs. One option is the more scientifically blended dog food, or perhaps a completely healthy raw diet. You will often find that changing to a 100% natural diet will result in a change in his general condition and that he will have a glossier coat and a renewed zest for life, simply because he’s being given a diet that he is genetically programmed to eat, rather than taking in meat derivatives mixed with cereals that cut down on the nutrition available from a raw diet.
Whatever you choose to feed your senior dog, he may also need less simply because his energy needs are less or a slowing down of their metabolic rate so that they develop constipation. Keeping him to the same amount may result in weight gain particularly if he isn’t bouncing around as much as he used to.
Psychological problems can occur in much the same way as in humans – the elderly dog can begin showing signs of confusion, disorientation and changes in toilet habits that could be markers for a condition known as canine cognitive dysfunction. Its signs and symptoms bear some similarity to Alzheimer’s in humans and although treatment is available the recovery rates are not always guaranteed.
If your dog does develop this condition, more than ever he will need support, care and compassion because he is unaware that his behaviour has changed and simply cannot help himself. Your vet will be able to give you help and support in caring for your dog with this condition and to guide you when deciding on treatments.
Knowing that your dog is seriously ill is made harder to bear by the fact that he is reaching the end of his life. It will be a difficult time for you both and you need to make sure you have support so as to be the best support you can be to your old friend as he reaches the end of his time with you.