by Vetsavers of St Thomas’ Road, Spalding
Is it true that seven human years equals one dog year? It is thought that a dog ages seven years to every one year of our life.
But this is used as a general guideline and actually it is not strictly accurate. Dogs age more quickly in the puppy stage than they do in later life. Small dogs and large dogs also age at a different rate.
A nine-year-old small dog may still be quite active, however a large breed dog is becoming a senior citizen and, like us, a little less active.
Diet is important for your dog to have a long life. It is important to feed your dog a nutritional diet, low in fat and served in moderate portions as they get older. Their digestive system slows down a little and, as such, you need to guard against allowing your dog to become overweight. Just as it is with humans, many ailments and injuries are attributed to your dog being overweight.
Don’t shorten your dog’s lifespan by letting him get fat. Overweight dogs may also suffer from joint problems and arthritis which, while not a direct threat to life, may lead to chronic pain, decreased activity and decreased quality of life.
Another problem with ageing dogs can be urinary incontinence, the bladder control can weaken and small leakages can occur. There isn’t really anything that can prevent this in older dogs, but I would always say visit the vet as there are other causes for this, such as urine infections.
Eyes, sight/ears, hearing can be other areas affected with age and again your vet can always check the dog over for early signs of deterioration of these.
Sometimes you may start to see little areas of raised skin, sometimes these may appear bald or reddish and in some cases your dog may ‘nag’ at these areas which makes them sore.
These are common in older dogs and are more often than not small benign skin tumours, but again, I would urge you to have your vet check these out as a small surgical procedure to remove them and have confirmed as benign is always the best way forward.
We routinely run a small blood sample on older dogs to check that their major organs are functioning at an acceptable level, such as the liver and kidneys.
These two organs can start to slow down in functioning with age and as such can cause complications, but in most cases these can be addressed if found early enough.
Another condition that can be found from the above tests is diabetes which, although does not just occur in the older dog, should be regularly checked.
Some dogs can develop cataracts in just a few days, with sudden onset diabetes. See your vet as soon as possible if the eyes look cloudy or changed in appearance.
No one knows their dog better than you and so it’s really only you that will spot sometimes small but very important changes in their behaviour.
Drinking more – urinating more: this could be diabetes, could be kidney disease, or could be your dog is too hot at home. Age does not mean they drink more, there is usually an underlying reason.
Limping or stiffness – this is more likely than not due to age. Muscles become weaker and bones are not as mobile as they once were, but there could also be other reasons.
These are just a couple of age-related conditions that could also be something else that can be treated, so visit the vet.
We all age and dogs are no different – remember that we need changes to our lifestyle as will your dog, a little more rest, a little less food and a whole lot of love.
* Next week I will answer Mr Adrian’s question on his rabbit’s health and fly strike now we are coming into warmer weather.