People are always curious how old their pet is in human years. Everyone has heard the basic rule of thumb that dogs age seven years for every human year. This theory has changed slightly over the past few years. The fact is dogs do age faster than humans, but the size of your dog also plays a factor in this calculation. Smaller breed dogs live longer than larger breed dogs. This week I’m discussing my senior dog, Jade, and our battle to keep her youthful.
Jade is Dr. Coffin’s 13-year-old Weimaraner. She has been a very healthy girl with no major medical issues until this last year. It all started with slow, gradual weight loss. Every month, Jade gets a monthly beauty treatment from Stefani Fortney which is how we detected her weight loss. I doubt I would have detected Jade’s weight loss so early if I weren’t taking her to the clinic monthly for a bath. Senior dogs are notorious for either weight gain or weight loss, so it is important to monitor your dog’s weight so that it can be corrected before there is a dramatic weight gain or loss. Older dog’s produce less saliva, so they often need their food softened with broth, water or canned food. Have you ever tried eating a bunch of crackers without a drink of water? It’s not easy. This problem was solved easily by adding canned food to her normal dry portion of dog food and adjusting her food intake until she was back to her ideal body weight.
The next problem that popped up was also a subtle and unusual sign of pain and arthritis. Twice within a one-week period, she fell going up our stair at the house. This was very unusual for her and I started watching more closely to determine the problem. I then noticed she didn’t want to jump up on the bed and she was also having trouble getting up on the couch. I started feeling around on her hips and noticed she was painful over her left hip. Again, this problem was easily solved by starting her on a glucosamine product and pain medication. She responded immediately.
Arthritis is a common problem I see in senior dogs. I believe that many people wait for too long before starting their senior dog on glucosamine and pain medication. They think their dog is just “getting old.” Age isn’t a disease and it’s just a number. If they are acting differently, their problem is a medical issue that can usually be treated. Arthritis left untreated leads your dog to an inactive lifestyle and causing muscle wasting. Once muscle wasting starts, it is almost impossible to get back in senior patients.
The latest problem I noticed was Jade withdrawing from family activity. She was secluding herself to her crate more than normal. Jade loves her crate and can be found in their often, but when I got home at night, she wouldn’t come up and sit on the couch with the rest of the family. I was concerned she was starting to develop early signs of canine cognitive dysfunction which is like Alzheimer’s in humans. I wasn’t sure this was the problem, and she wasn’t exhibiting any other symptoms of this disease, but I didn’t want to see it progress. I decided to try a diet that I have recommended to several patients in the past. I started Jade on Purina Bright Mind Adult 7+ and low and behold she is a new dog. In fact, she is more social than she has ever been before!
Common senior dog considerations:
- Diet and nutrition
- Weight control
- Maintaining mobility
- Mental health
- Increased veterinary care
You can help your senior dog remain youthful by closely monitor your dog for any changes in the above categories. By talking with your veterinarian early, you can not only save yourself money but help your dog live a longer, happier, healthier life. I sure wish that dogs had longer lifespans, but you can play an important role in your pets youthfulness!