When a dog can be counted as a “senior” depends on its breed and size. Because while large, heavy breeds usually only live to a maximum of ten years, smaller dogs can live to be 15 years or older. In general, it can be said that a dog counts as a senior from its 5th to 9th year of life – for example when it has reached half of its life expectancy.
In addition, it is of course different from dog to dog when it becomes “old”, i.e. when it shows signs of age. Some dogs break down relatively early, others are fit into old age. Signs of old age can be:
A senior dog may also need a diet that is adapted to his or her age. In order to be able to differentiate between the normal signs of age and illness, it is essential that older dogs have regular health checks at the vet.
As dogs get older, they become more susceptible to disease. Unfortunately, the course of illness in old dogs is more difficult and protracted, because all organs and the immune system react more slowly to the changes caused by the illness. In addition, old dogs often suffer from different diseases at the same time. And last but not least: The chances of recovery are worse with age.
In fact, many typical age-related diseases, such as arthrosis of the joints and spine as well as problems with the heart, cannot be reversed. Nevertheless, in most cases there is a lot that can be done to offer the chronically ill dog a good old age.
However: only ailments that are discovered can also be treated. And the sooner a disease is recognized, the more successful the therapy. This rule of thumb applies especially to chronic diseases. Because the treatment here is supposed to stop the progression of the disease. Ideally, this will happen before the dog has severe symptoms.
Old dogs are more prone to disease. © methaphum-stock.adobe.com
The safest way to find out about chronic aging problems in dogs at an early stage is to have regular health checks at the vet. Veterinarians now offer examination programs specifically for older dogs. These senior checks not only carry out a thorough general examination, but also look specifically for indications of typical age-related ailments.
A classic senior check-up includes a thorough medical history (anamnesis) and a careful clinical examination, as well as laboratory blood and urine tests.
During the clinical examination, the veterinarian looks at the dog at rest and in motion. He pays particular attention to the following areas of the dog’s body:
The dog’s heart and circulatory system need to be examined in depth. If listening to the heart or symptoms such as coughing and restlessness at night indicate a heart disease, special examinations such as x-rays, ultrasound and EKG are recommended.
Because with timely drug treatment you can slow down the process of creeping heart failure significantly. Particularly in the respiratory system, a normal age-related restriction of the function is often difficult to distinguish from a pathological occurrence. Additional examinations, such as chest x-rays, may be necessary.
After all, the blood and urine tests should complete the picture of the health of the dog senior. The blood count, kidney and liver blood counts are indispensable standards. These parameters indicate whether the dog suffers from subclinical diseases.
Subclinical means that the disease has not yet caused any externally visible symptoms. For example, kidney disease only leads to symptoms such as great thirst when over 50% of the kidney tissue has already been destroyed. The vet also gains important information about the condition of the kidneys through the urine test.