Category Archives: senior pet

Common Behavior Issues in Aging Dogs

By Linda Cole

One thing no scientist has been able to do is slow down the hands of time. Like us, as dogs grow older they can start to experience the effects of an aging body and mind. Steps may be harder to go up and down. Hearing isn’t as sharp as when your dog was younger, and he might have a harder time “holding it” in between trips outside. We can’t stop the aging process, but we can recognize and understand difficulties that cause some common behavior issues in senior dogs. Canines are adaptable, and they usually handle getting older better than most humans.

Hearing Difficulties

When it comes to a dog’s senses, hearing loss – partial or complete – is the most common loss. If your older dog doesn’t respond when you talk to him, it’s possible he can’t hear you. As canines age, high pitched sounds are harder to hear. Women generally have a higher pitched voice, and praise is given in a happy, higher pitched tone. It might be necessary to lower the tone to help your pet hear you.

Just because he’s watching you as you talk to him, doesn’t mean he hears you, and most dogs aren’t lip readers. Not coming when called or ignoring a command, even when he’s watching you, is a good indication of hearing loss.

If you used hand signals along with commands when you trained your dog, it’s a huge advantage when he gets older and loses his hearing. But if you didn’t, you can still teach him hand signals or use other ways to get his attention to help him understand what you want.

Use a flashlight or laser pointer to get his attention, but remember to never shine a laser light directly into his eyes to prevent damage to the eyes. You can turn on an outside light and flash it to send a signal when it’s time to come inside. Reward him with CANIDAE Pure Heaven treats so he can learn what the light means.

Never stop talking to your pet, even if he has complete hearing loss. His hearing may be gone, but he still enjoys the time you spend with him when talking to him.

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Tips for Keeping your Senior Dog Mentally Sharp

By Langley Cornwell

It’s hard to believe that we have what is considered a senior dog now. I remember when she was just a scruffy, malnourished little runt, shaking on my lap as we drove her away from deplorable conditions. Now, eight years later, she’s fat and happy, gracefully entering her golden years. According to the ASPCA, most dogs are considered senior by the time they reach seven years of age. Larger breed dogs age faster than smaller breeds, but between seven to ten years is a good average.

If you have ever shared your life with a senior dog, you are likely aware of the physical decline associated with the aging process. Dogs, like humans, also experience mental decline as they grow older. As a responsible pet owner, you want to do your part to keep your senior dog mentally sharp. Simple things like changing your typical walking routine or taking an alternate route will offer a renewed perspective for an older pet, but it’s good to do more. The best thing you can do is construct ways to keep your dog’s mind active with brain games that require problem solving skills.

Start Where You Are

Teaching your senior dog new tricks is a fun way to engage her mind. You can start with the basics like shake, roll-over and play dead, and get creative from there. If you don’t know how to get started, the article Training an Older Dog will provide an overview.
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How to Help a Senior Pet Age Gracefully

By Julia Williams

September is Senior Pet Health month, so I thought now would be a good time to discuss how responsible pet owners can help their aging animals live longer and be healthier. Early recognition of problems that occur naturally with age is crucial, as is making a few lifestyle changes to accommodate a senior pet. Like humans, advanced age can lead to arthritis, decreased mobility and decreased organ functions in senior pets. The following tips can help a senior pet age gracefully and enjoy their “Golden Years.”

Provide regular exercise. The pace of your daily walk with Fido may be slower, and they may take longer to retrieve their ball in a game of fetch. Cats may not jump as high or chase after their toy as quickly as they once did. Nevertheless, senior pets need sufficient exercise to avoid obesity, keep their muscles strong and their aging joints limber. Read “Games to Play with Pets” for some fun and creative calorie-burning activities. Just be sure to carefully monitor your pet during exercise to make sure they don’t overdo it.

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Common Health Issues for Older Dogs

By Ruthie Bently

Do you know how old a senior dog is? Most large dogs are considered seniors at the age of five to six years old, while their smaller counterparts are seniors at the age of eight to nine. As they age, many adult dogs can develop health issues that mirror our own, even down to the symptoms. According to a 2005 MIT study that mapped the canine genome, humans and dogs share 5% of the same genes, so it stands to reason they might have some of the same health problems we do.

One aspect of being a responsible pet owner is taking your dog in for a yearly vet visit, but senior canines may need to visit their vet more often. Older dogs don’t have the health reserves a younger dog has, and getting them to the vet quickly can be a life saver under certain conditions. Getting a base line veterinary checkup can help you with your geriatric canine; you can use it as a gauge for later vet visits.

One of the most common health problems our dogs have as they age is obesity. Obesity can be caused by overfeeding, not enough exercise or a combination of both. Obesity is a cause for concern because it can lead to more serious health issues and can actually make your dog age faster. Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease, lack of energy and the early onset of arthritis. Diabetes occurs when a dog’s body cannot assimilate glucose (blood sugars) properly. Signs of diabetes can include increased water consumption and inappropriate urination in the house. Side effects of diabetes are cataracts, glaucoma and blindness. Canine diabetes is managed with insulin injections, as it is with humans.

Senior canines are susceptible to developing heart disease, though it’s more common in dogs that are overweight. Dogs with a good exercise program and a healthy diet are less apt to develop heart problems. Your dog may be moving slower as they age, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get exercise. You just need to take their age into consideration when exercising. Tone down the exercise to something easier for your senior dog to handle; for example instead of jogging, go for a leisurely walk. Excessive heat and cold will affect your senior dog more, so don’t exercise them during too hot or too cold temperatures. Exercise more frequently, for shorter periods of time, and take along plenty of water for your dog.

Another health issue older dogs can have is dental disease, which is due to incorrect dental hygiene as well as the lack of kibble or baked treats in the dog’s daily diet. Without daily brushing, plaque turns into tartar which needs to be scaled off the teeth, as it cannot be removed by brushing. Tartar buildup can cause periodontal and gum disease and can lead to a bacterial infection in your dog’s system or the need for teeth extractions. Many senior dogs can have bad breath, but it can also be a sign of something more serious. Other things to watch for in your canine senior are a loss of their appetite, rapid weight loss or gain if their diet and exercise levels have not changed (this could be a symptom of cancer), excessive urinating or drinking excessive amounts of water (this could be a symptom of kidney issues).

Canine arthritis is a disease caused by improper lubrication of joints. It causes the joints to become inflamed and your dog will have a hard time or be unable to run, jump or even walk. Signs of arthritis can be difficulty standing after resting or limping after exercise or walking. The pain may make your dog aggressive or highly agitated. You can help your arthritic dog by getting them a canine heating pad, a bed made for an arthritic dog, or by putting a cover over their crate or moving it to a warmer room of the house in colder weather. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is comparable to human dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and some symptoms are confusion, wandering the house aimlessly, not recognizing humans or other pets, insomnia and inappropriate vocalizations. For more information, see my articles on canine arthritis and cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

Just because our dogs are aging doesn’t mean their quality of life has to be any different than when they were younger. Your dog may be a bit grayer around the muzzle, walk a bit slower and take more time getting up after a nap; but if you look closely I’ll bet that you’ll still see that sparkle in their eye and that wagging tail as they greet you at the door after a hard day at work.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Understanding Canine Arthritis

By Ruthie Bently

As our canine companions get older they are susceptible to many of the same conditions of aging that affect humans; arthritis is one of these conditions. A dog’s skeletal system is comprised of not only their bones, but also the tendons and ligaments that give overall stability to the skeleton. Though they are not bones, an injury to tendons and ligaments can affect the onset of arthritis in our dogs too. Symptoms of arthritis are lagging behind during walks, limping, the inability to rise easily after resting, resistance to being touched, changes in their personality, a hesitancy to climb stairs, play, jump or even simply walking.

Arthritis is caused by an inflammation in the joints. It is usually divided into two categories: inflammatory joint disease and osteoarthritis, which is known as degenerative arthritis. Each one of these is divided into sub-categories. Inflammatory arthritis can affect multiple joints at the same time and is caused by an underlying disease that affects the dog’s immune system or an infection (infectious joint disease). Some symptoms can include stiffness, anorexia and fever. Infectious joint disease has several causes, which include a fungal infection, a tick borne disease like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease or a bacterium. Arthritis that affects the immune system can be brought on a hereditary weakness. There are several types including idiopathic arthritis and systemic lupus which cause infections in the joints but are not degenerative. Rheumatoid arthritis which is a deformative arthritis is the third kind, but is rare in dogs.

Osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) is caused when the cartilage that protects bone joints is destroyed. This can happen when undue stress is put on normally healthy joints. Some examples of undue stress are injuries received during an accident or fall; or the tearing or hyperextension of ligaments during strenuous exercise which can include constantly jumping over an obstacle. It is also caused by stress put on abnormal joints because of issues like hip dysplasia, which is due to the hip bones not being properly formed. Osteoarthritis also has subcategories; primary and secondary disease. Primary osteoarthritis is one that there is no evident cause for, while secondary has a specific cause. Some of the causes of the secondary disease are ruptured knee ligaments, injury, patella luxation, and OCD (osteochondritis dissecans) as well as hip dysplasia. My vet mentioned that Skye may suffer from arthritis as she ages because of the damage to the ligaments in her left leg.

While arthritis is primarily a condition of our dogs aging, it can also be suffered by a younger dog. A larger breed dog with rapid growth spurts should be watched, especially if the breed is one that is genetically disposed to dysplasia or OCD. Responsible pet owners who carefully monitor their dog’s diet can keep their weight in line and help prevent this from happening. Owners with dogs that have arthritis may not notice anything wrong for quite some time. Cartilage doesn’t have nerves and joint damage may not be apparent until there is a severe joint problem and the fluid that lubricates the joints is critically depleted.

If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, there are several treatment options to consider. If a dog is overweight, this will put added stress on their joints, and your vet may suggest a weight reduction to alleviate this. If caught in time, surgery can sometimes stop or prevent osteoarthritis. While anecdotal, there is evidence that acupuncture can help a dog with arthritis. Laser therapy has also been used with good results. Consider getting an orthopedic dog bed or heated mat for them to lie on. Some veterinarians will suggest a nutraceutical in an attempt to rebuild the lost fluids around the joints. Your veterinarian may suggest an over the counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (nsaid) for pain or a prescription drug for more severe arthritis.

As arthritis can be due to several causes, there are different treatments for each one. So what’s a responsible pet owner to do? Pay close attention to your dog’s moods and body language. If your normally happy dog is being crotchety, seems to take longer to get up after a nap or doesn’t want to participate in their regular routine, and you suspect your dog may have arthritis, a trip to the vet is in order.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

By Ruthie Bently

As your pet ages, they may get a little gray around the muzzle, and may walk slower on your daily ramblings. They might prefer sitting on the couch to going out and chasing a ball, and they may even get a bit finicky. Now our pets are even coping with some of the diseases we have been dealing with. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is one of these; it has been compared to Alzheimer’s, dementia or senility in a human. Also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (though cats can suffer from it as well), it’s caused by the physiological and chemical changes that occur in a dog’s brain as they age.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome typically comes on slowly and will gradually get worse. CDS can cause a senior dog to become forgetful or confused about their outside boundaries and even housebreaking. Another symptom is forgetfulness about eating or drinking water. This can be a problem for our senior canines because their bodies do not have a lot of reserves. If you think your dog may have CDS and they seem to be forgetful about eating regularly or seem to have lost interest, it is important to get them to the vet as soon as you can. CDS can become life threatening if not addressed.

A dog with CDS may forget their owner, favorite family member or someone they have just met. They may not meet you at the door when you come home as they used to do. They may walk away while being petted or groomed before you are finished, and they don’t tend to seek out the companionship of human family members. They may even forget other pets they live with or animals they have just met. A dog with CDS can have a personality change, and an outgoing dog may become aggressive or fearful of family members, strange people and other animals.

A dog with CDS can become disoriented in a place that has been familiar for years; this can include your yard or the house. They can even get lost in the corner of a room or behind an open door. They may wander aimlessly or pace through the house without realizing they are doing it. They may begin to bark for no reason and their sleeping patterns will change drastically. They may begin sleeping more during the day and wander the house at night. They may not respond when their name is called or may forget it altogether. Your previously housebroken or obedience-trained dog will forget what they are supposed to do. They won’t remember to tell you they have to go out, or will forget that they even have to.

The FDA has approved the drug Anipryl® for veterinarians to use in improving symptoms and slowing the process of CDS. The human equivalent selegiline hydrochloride is used for patients that are battling Alzheimer’s. While there are alternative therapies that are mentioned in the treatment of human Alzheimer’s, it is cited that there is no conclusive evidence that they work. They can be costly, are not well regulated and as such may not be a safe alternative to chemical medications. As such, Anipryl is the only medication available to help our canine pets with CDS at the present time.

If your dog is diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, there are several things you can do to help them. Make sure to go to the vet for regular yearly visits. Keep your dog’s mind and body active by working or training them daily. Teach them tricks or new activities like tracking or scent training. There are many puzzle toys available today that challenge a dog’s mind. Even a simple game of hide-and-seek with a food baited toy will challenge their brain function. Adding more enrichment to your dog’s daily life can help their mental attitude and overall outlook. A dog that is both mentally and physically healthy tends to be more confident and self-assured, and have fewer health issues. By doing these things you can help slow the progress of CDS.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.