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Aging and the Mature Dog

Aging is part of life, it can be slowed down but you can never completely avoid it. Thus no matter how much you want your loyal companion to stay young they are bound to grow old and this comes with some changes.

Nothing feels as good as knowing that your dog has lived an active and happy life.

Facts on ageing

- Most dogs will be in old age at around 7-8yrs. However this varies with breed. Some small breeds are not considered senior citizens till they reach about 13-15yrs.

- The average life expectancy of a dog is 12yrs and only 8% of dogs live past the 15yr mark.

- Oldest dog on record dies at the age of 29yrs, this way in 1939.

As your dog grows older there are some changes that are expected. While some of these changes are unavoidable, some can be slowed down or minimised through proper care.

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Ageing dogs, what to expect

Older dogs will slow down and may not be enthusiastic to engage in activities that require lot of energy. There are also body changes such as wrinkles on the skin as well as greying of the hair; this is mostly seen in the muzzle area. There is also increased hair loss and development of calluses on the dog’s elbows. These will also show up as behaviour changes in senior dogs.

Older dogs have a weaker immune system. This puts them at a higher risk of contracting infection. For this reason old dogs should be preferably housed separately from the younger dogs. There are also some conditions that the dog is likely to experience due to age such as joint pain or dog arthritis. This may be due to the fact that older dogs are less mobile as well as their intolerance to temperature variation.

Digestion of ingested food is also slowed down in old dogs. The dog is likely to experience constipation and this may lead to changes in appetite. The dog may refuse food when fed. Due to the slowed digestion the dog should be given smaller portions of food with sufficient quantity of fibre. Plenty of water should also be provided. To relieve constipation laxatives may be used.

The dog’s senses will not be as good as they were. The dog is likely to experience loss of hearing or may not be as sensitive as it was before. Dogs will less than normal hearing may show signs of confusion when approached and will fail to react on normal commands when given since they cannot hear. For this reason it is necessary to develop signals which you can use on your dog in case she losses her hearing.

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To ensure that your dog is comfortable and he is able to adjust to the changes in his body

- Change in diet, you may give your dog feed that is more palatable. If you see he is losing weight a trip to the vet is necessary as this may be an indicator of impaired absorption or disease.

- Accommodation, provide your dog with a warm blanket and let him sleep in a dry, padded area. Older dogs adapt slowly to weather changes.

- Regular vet check up, Even if the dog seems ok take him for his regular check-up. Sometimes dogs may suffer from subclinical diseases. Such diseases may not present with clinical signs. The check-up will ensure that such diseases are detected and treated.

TLC (Tender, love and care). In these golden years your dog need to know that you still love him/her. Nothing is as painful as a dog that has served his master faithfully over the years being neglected when he is in dire need of support. This will mean much more than any medication or therapy the dog may need.

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