25 October, 2010
We try not to think that our dogs will grow old but they do. And just like people, dogs will experience a lot of changes as they reach a certain age. One such change is that your dog will most likely develop dog arthritis. As dog owners, it is our responsibility to understand, prepare, and adjust to what our dogs will go through once they have reached a ripe old age.
How old is old? The popular belief states that one dog year is equivalent to seven human years. This means a dog that is nine years old, in human years, is actually sixty-three years old. However, this system may not be an accurate measure. In reality, the size and the breed of the dog plays an important factor in dog aging. Studies have shown breed differences as follows:
- Smaller breeds have a longer life expectancy than their larger counterparts. Smaller breeds such as terriers become geriatric (late adulthood, 60+ in humans) at about eleven years,
- Medium-sized dogs become geriatric at ten.
- Large dogs become geriatric at about seven.
- Your dog may experience loss of hearing and loss of sight (due to cataracts).
- Your dog’s heart may weaken as the valves of the organ lose their elasticity. As a result, your dog will become less active.
- Your dog may lose hair or the hair may whiten. The skin becomes thinner making it more susceptible to injury, although calluses will develop in the elbows and the skin on the foot pads thicken. The nails may become more brittle.
- Your dog will be at risk for gum disease and tooth loss.
- Your dog will be prone to gastrointestinal and urinary problems.
Another significant health issue for senior dogs is dog arthritis. This will affect your senior dog’s mobility as the joints may get inflamed and painful due to cartilage deterioration over years of wear and tear. Senior dog that are overweight and inactive are especially susceptible.
Caring for Your Senior Dog with Dog Arthritis
When you notice that your senior dog is having problems moving around, it necessary for you to consult a vet so that the proper diagnosis can be done. For dog arthritis, early detection is crucial so that cartilage damage can be controlled and tissue rehabilitation can be started in the earliest possible time. Given that your senior dog has been diagnosed with dog arthritis, working with your vet to create a treatment plan will help your pet live a happy and healthy life regardless of the disease. For this to happen, as a dog owner it is important to manage your dog’s weight through proper diet and exercise:
- Change your dog’s diet. Make sure that its medical needs are met. It would also be better to give smaller meals throughout the day, rather than two big meals. There are some fantastic ‘life stage’ foods on the market.
- Your dog may not be as energetic as it used to be; however, exercise is still needed. Short walks in the morning and in the evening are highly recommended. This will promote blood circulation around the joints as well as strengthen your dog’s muscles.
Caring for your senior dog is not easy, especially when your pet is suffering from dog arthritis. However, knowing what to expect and knowing what to do will greatly help you with this task. We can still provide our pet with the same love and affection through the later stages of its life.
Dr. Christoper Durin is a veterinarian and creator of Dog Arthritis Blog, the authority site for dog arthritis.