Caring for an Elderly Dog

This article appeared in DogTrekker on October 22, 2013

Rhonda Stallings, DVM, Arroyo Veterinary Hospital, Sonoma

You may be noticing that your lovely pup is getting grey around the muzzle, slowing down, or just not their usual happy self. Just like humans, pets age – but faster. By seven years of age, your dog can be considered a “senior” pet, but it can live many more years with a good quality of life because of advances in veterinary medicine.

Our goal as veterinarians is to keep pets as pain free as possible. Pain is often overlooked by pet parents because pets are often very stoic and don’t let us know there is a problem.

If you are an observant pet owner, you may notice that your pet is “just not right.” If your dog has any of these symptoms, early treatment can be curative:

  • Increased water consumption
  • Increased urination
  • Any loss of housetraining – both urination or defecation
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Repeated vomiting and/or consistent diarrhea
  • Straining of any kind to pass urine or stool
  • Stiffness or difficulty in getting up
  • Excessive panting, coughing, gagging or breathing fast when at rest (or when sleeping)
  • Mouth odor, redness or drooling

Regardless of symptoms, my recommendation is that senior pets be examined twice a year and have lab work performed to catch any underlying problems early.

During the exam, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing such as x-rays and possibly an ultrasound. These tests are usually easy to perform and cause minimal stress to our patients.

With the help of medication, exercise, advanced nutrition, and a plethora alternative modalities, we can keep our pets happy and active well into their geriatric years.