So, your dog seems to be slowing down as he gets older. Aging in dogs is a big topic in veterinary medicine today because dogs are living longer than in years past. In fact, average life expectancy in dogs is almost double what it was decades ago. Thanks to better wellness care, vaccinations, heartworm preventions, and back yard fences, dogs that may have lived until they were 8 now commonly live until they’re 14, maybe even to 16 years old.
Aging in Larger Dogs
But now that dogs are living well into their senior years, we commonly see health issues that are age related. Larger dogs typically develop at least some degree of arthritis in their big joints or in their back. Owners often notice that their big lab is slow to get up after a nap. Maybe they even see them try to throw their weight forward to their front limbs as they rise because the back limb joints hurt. Being hesitant to jump into the car or to go up stairs can be other signs that the joints hurt. We can’t give your pet new joints, but we can use various medications to help with the hurt and inflammation. Drugs like Rimadyl can help both with pain and inflammation of the joints, and can really improve your dog’s activity level. Dasuquin and Antinol are other meds that help many dogs gain some arthritis relief.
Aging in Smaller Dogs
Smaller dog breeds can also get arthritis, but we also want to carefully watch them for heart, liver, and kidney disease. All dogs over 8 years old need to be monitored for changes in their vital organ function through periodic blood testing. Senior blood work in dogs and cats has really progressed in recent years. Just like senior humans need to have blood work done frequently, so your older pet needs to be screened for diabetes, kidney or heart disease, thyroid disease, etc. Complete blood counts (CBC’s), urinalysis, and sometimes radiographic imaging or ultrasound are other tools we have to assess your pet’s aging health. It’s the old “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” thing. Many of these aging problems can be managed with diet change or meds if we can intercept them before they become catastrophic.
So don’t just assume that if your beloved pet isn’t as alert or active as he used to be that “it’s just old age”. Let’s see if we can make those later years more comfortable for him with periodic senior wellness testing.
If you have more questions, please call us at the Rannals Small Animal Hospital in Whitehouse, Tx at 903-839-7235.