Having a senior dog is an honor, and means you have taken the responsibility of loving your dog seriously.
Maybe you raised him from infancy, trained him from a slobbering squealer to a proud and strong boy, hiked many mountains, each one bigger than the next.
Maybe you went to a dog shelter, expecting to adopt that puppy you saw online, only to stop at a distraught and shaking mess of fur on the floor. Although he was somewhere in his adult years, you wanted nothing more than to hold him tight in the evening, take him on long walks up winding trails,and give him a life better than his first few somber years.
But now your little boy has grown old, his gray hairs sprouting from places you've planted kisses a thousand times over. You don't want to see him go, and you definitely don't want him to suffer, so you're doing all you can to give him the best tail-end of his life. There are a number of things to keep him smiling, and ready for his next adventure.
Like all living creatures, dogs grow old. With their old age can come unexpected health issues to be aware of.
While many people believe that every year for a dog equates to 7 dog years, this is not so. Researchers have mostly agreed that in year 1, a dog ages the equivalent of 15 years, by year 2 he has reached age 24, and then it's about 5 dog years for every human year after that. For example, some people may think 10 years in dog years is 70, but it is actually regarded as 64.
While 6 years may not seem like much, learning how dogs age is important to get a rough idea of your dog's life expectancy and when canine health issues such as joint pain, digestion issues, or canine dementia could arise.
According to PetMD, the average lifespan of a dog under 20 pounds is about 11 years, that shrinks to 8 years when looking at heavier dogs over 90 pounds.
This research was done concerning dogs of a number of health and feeding circumstances. Your best bet to keeping your dog healthy longer is to ensure gut health and give him plenty of exercise and love.
One thing to always be conscientious of is what you have been feeding him. The diet of a dog is paramount to longevity, as the canine's digestive tract holds close to 80% of his immune system capabilities. Absorption of nutrition for dogs is another reason why giving his gut the right food as he is growing can help lead to a healthy gut, and a likely longer life.
If at all possible, feed your dog healthy food. Avoiding too much grain and and looking into transitioning to a raw diet is a simple and effective solution when it comes to improving what you're feeding your dog. Canines evolved from a life spent in the wild, it is only natural that their diet resembles that of their ancestors.
A study by Kristyn M. Souliere speaks on the allergy issues associated with a heavy grain diet,
"Many dogs have been seen to have allergies to the feed they eat, and in some cases grains are often associated with the allergy responses or sensitivities seen in the dog (Stokes, 2011). Most dogs that have been allergic to grains in the feed have exhibited some skin issues. Signs of an allergic reaction have resulted in “pruritus (itchiness), eczema (dry skin), and skin appearing red and tender” (McNamara, 2006, pg. 203). When having an allergic reaction, dogs scratch and bite at the sensitive spots on the body, inflaming the area being bitten or scratched (McNamara, 2006, pg. 203)."
The study does go on to say that having a solely meat-based diet can overwork the kidneys. If your dog has kidney issues, be sure to check with your vet to see which diet is best for your dog.
With pet allergies on the rise, and a number of food related illnesses and death from low end dog food companies reported on ConsumerAffairs.com, paying the extra 10-20 dollars for quality dog food is a no-brainer if you want your dog at his best.
If you are unsure about which brand is best, consider putting Fido on a raw-diet and supplementing with healthy grains, such as oats and brown rice.
Isn't that expensive?
While buying raw meat fresh from the butcher can be time intensive and not as cheap as a 90 lb bag of kibble, it isn't always as expensive as buying the best cuts of meat you would buy for a special occasion.
Often times, butchers will not use every cut of the meat and will have a refuse stock that they will gladly give you for a heavily discounted price. In addition, your dog will LOVE you for it. All of the nutrition that scientists painstakingly work to place in high-end kibble is naturally in this raw meat.
Isn't giving my dog raw meat dangerous?
OnlyNaturalPet.com takes a deep dive into the myth of raw diet danger, but they tell us a number of things, including the following.
Your dog's digestive tract is different that that of a human's. A dog's digestive tract is half the size of a human's and twice as acidic. This difference is digestion time and stomach acid strength makes what they can safely eat much different than anything you are used to. Even in the rare occasion that the raw meat was contaminated, the bacteria would have a hard time entering the canine's bloodstream.
If you don't want to risk it, there has been a rise of dog food companies that have come out with more affordable frozen raw meat for your dog.
While your dog's gut is a workhorse, handle the meat like you would in any other circumstance. Wash your hands before and after handling, make sure your dog's bowl is washed with hot water and soap, before and after, and throw away any leftovers after about 30 minutes.
Age Related Issues In Old Dogs
In the same way that humans tend to deal with more issues as they age, dogs eventually lose their ability to deal with certain health issues. While this is far from an exclusive list, look for these seven ailments in your aging fur friend:
- Gum Disease
- Kidney Disease
Arthritis In Dogs
Dog arthritis is an often painful and debilitating issue stemming from damage to the cartilage within the joints. When cartilage becomes damaged, it can cause inflammation, which can cause your dog joint pain. Beyond pain, your dog can experience swelling and stiffness. Watch out for any pronounced limping, wincing when you pick them up, or inability to run and jump. A great thing do for your suffering friend is to make sure they are absorbing as much nutrients as possible. One way to aid nutrient absorption is through the daily use of probiotics.
Muscle massages can soothe your aching pup by stimulating the blood flow to inflamed joints and damaged muscles. You can also use a warm compress and apply it to the stiff area, just be sure to regularly check the compress as not to overheat your dog.
If your dog has a mouth with gums and teeth inside, chances are that he will deal with gum inflammation or gum disease at some point in his life. Periodontal disease in dogs, or gum disease, is the bigger issue that you should avoid at all costs. Gum disease is the act of the unhealthy gums receding from the teeth.
The issue that will eventually cause your dog gum disease is gingivitis, or gum inflammation. To stay on top of your his mouth health, regularly check the gums and look to see if your dog's gums are red. If they are, then it could be the early stages of gingivitis. If you notice your dogs gums bleeding, then his mouth is in need of being looked at.
If the gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, the infection can spread from the mouth into the bloodstream and into other vital organs. While it may surprise you, gum disease can affect the life span of your canine, and is especially important if you have an older dog.
A few way to help maintain a healthy mouth is to give him an all natural diet, a probiotic supplement that can help prevent tartar, and have his mouth checked by your veterinarian regularly.
Kidney Disease In Dogs
As your dog grows older, his kidneys have likely been overworked, especially if he hasn't had an all natural diet. The kidney's primary function is to remove bodily waste. If the kidneys shut down and aren't able to remove waste, those toxins have nowhere to go and will slowly poison the body, causing catastrophe for your dog's health.
Aging is a big reason for kidney failure in dogs, otherwise known as renal failure. Other reasons for your dogs kidneys failing can be from the bladder rupturing or the urinary tract being blocked by crystals or a kidney stone.
To better identify renal failure in dogs before it occurs, check their tongue for a general brown change in color, inability to use the bathroom, a rich ammonia smell, a change mood, and unexplained weight loss.
If you notice any of the listed symptoms, have him checked out immediately. The best you can do for your aging dog's kidneys is to first make sure that you aren't dealing with a largely treatable kidney stone.
If your dog has renal failure, a diet change may be in order. Researchers from Washington State University advocate for a kidney diet, one that consists of less protein. While protein rich diets are ideal for dogs, kidneys work hard to process the protein. Because of this, it could do your dog well to limit his protein intake until his kidney function has improved.
Preventing kidney damage in dogs can be tricky, but there are definitive things you can do. Everything your dog eats, the kidneys process. Keep toxic substance such as pesticides, gas and oil, poisonous food for dogs, human medicines, and other toxic substances out of sight and reach. Limit the number of surgical procedures your dog has, the process is a strain on all major organs. Lastly, ensure that if your dog has a urinary tract infection or any other bacterial issues, that it is treated swiftly.
Cancer is one of the most heart wrenching diseases to befall any living creature. Having to see your dog slowly atrophy can make you feel helpless to his mortality. According to PetMD, cancerous tumors on dogs affect over 50% of canines over 10 and is the leading cause of death in senior dogs.
Dog cancers vary and can affect every vital organ in his system. There are a number of warning signs to be aware of, including an abnormal bump or swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, poor wound healing, or bleeding in peculiar places.
If your dog has cancer, then you hope he exhibits symptoms. Far too often, there are no signs of his internal suffering. Like many of the other age related issues, one of the best things to do is to be in tune with the mood of your dog, and don't hesitate to take him in if you intuit that something is a little off.
A big reason for these high rates of dog cancer is the double edged sword of a longer life. The older the dog is, the harder time his immune system has at fending off different ailments and subsequently becomes more susceptible to tumors. It is important to remember that there are steps you can take to fight dog tumors, they do not have to be a death sentence. In fact, many types of dog cancer can be surgically removed.
Consult with your veterinarian and see what your options are if you and Fido are forced to walk dow that path.
While there is no sure fire way to prevent cancer, a strong immune system is vital to a healthy dog. Ensure he is getting a healthy, all natural diet, and that his microflora is balanced.
A great way to maintain a balanced gut is through the use of a probiotic. Fidobiotics' Immuno Boosto's probiotic powder is packed with 20 CFU's of probiotics, as well as mushrooms, herbs, vitamins, and minerals.