What to Expect With An Aging Dog
Your dog’s face has gotten a little grayer and he walks slower to get out the door in the morning. He sleeps more, his joints ache and he requires more time and attention to manage even small, simple everyday tasks–But you wouldn’t have it any other way because you cherish every aspect of your old dog’s existence & want to make sure his senior years are as comfortable as possible.
Being the proud parent of an older dog is not easy, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. We love our dogs and we’ll do anything to make their lives better, no matter the circumstance.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to have an old dog in your life, you know first-hand these venerable old friends require special care; especially if they’re diagnosed with conditions like memory-loss from dementia, osteoarthritis or canine cancer.
Signs of Aging Dog
After a lifetime of excited tail wagging, loyal companionship and memorable moments with your dog, you come home from work one day and your buddy is no longer at the front door to greet you. Regrettably, dogs age much faster than humans and before you know it the years have taken a toll on your dog’s health and vitality.
Watching your once bright, energetic dog begin to show signs of aging can be heartbreaking. As your dog ages, he may not be able to walk as far or play as long. He may tire more easily and have more difficulty getting up or be reluctant to go up and down stairs or have difficulty getting into and out of the car as he once did.
Your dog may develop arthritis or other degenerative diseases like hip dysplasia that cause him to slow down. Pain from inflamed joints may make it hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in. In their later years, senior dogs can become more irritable and anxious and have declining mental capacity.
As a result of being less active, older sedentary dogs can gain weight and become obese–essentially becoming lethargic couch potatoes.
Some older dogs symptoms seem to be worse at night. They sleep all day and are awake all night. They pace. They fidget and make noise. They might be anxious and uncomfortable–all are symptoms of potentially more serious problems that require closer examination.
Aging in Dogs Symptoms
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)
The canine brain ages like any other organ in the dog’s body, resulting in a deterioration of how your dog thinks, learns and remembers; which in turn alters both your life and your dog’s. Canine cognitive dysfunction syndromes (CDS) are degenerative brain diseases that are often over-looked until the signs become so advanced that it may be too late to help the dog or its owner.
Cognitive dysfunction is a progressive problem that cannot be cured, so early recognition and treatment could buy some extra quality time. But even these prophylactic measures cannot provide much help for a dog that is in the end-stages of cognitive decline. It’s crucial to diagnose this disease and start making early changes to your dog’s diet and adding anti-oxidant supplements like cannabidiol (CBD) to help support normal brain aging as the dog hits its senior years.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndromes (CDS) is a decline in learning, memory or awareness due to the age-related changes within the brain, and they are represented clinically by a group of signs related to varying states of dementia. The exact cause of cognitive dysfunction in dogs is not known, but beta-amyloid peptides (protein) are present in dog’s brain with CDS, as well as an increase in toxic free radicals and possible circulatory problems that contribute to brain neurons dying off, eventually showing signs of abnormal aging and mental deterioration.
However, there is such a thing as ‘normal aging’ in dogs. So while some aspects of your dog’s cognitive function do decline with age–CDS should be considered a pathological dysfunction and not a normal process of aging that every dog has to experience.
Similar to cognitive dysfunction in people, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, the loss of mental acuity in canine dementia is not well understood. But research is uncovering important causes and potential treatments for canine senility and cognitive dysfunction syndromes.
One major difference between dogs and humans developmental dementia is that dogs don’t get the tau protein, which forms neurofibriliary tangles in human brains, but dogs do get the ß-amyloid plaques. These deposits cause them to become confused, not remember things and lose the ability to figure things out that were previously commonly recognizable.
Tragically, in more advanced cases of dementia, a senile dog may no longer recognize the face or understand voice commands of it’s loving owner. Early awareness and intervention can help reduce progressive neurological deterioration for the majority of senior canines.
Clinical signs of canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndromes:
- Altered response to family members
- Disorientation or confusion
- Sleep changes
- House soiling
- Activity changes
- Excessive panting
- Restlessness, pacing and confusion
- Reduced interest in food
- Excessive drinking and urinating
- Difficulty navigating the environment, such as climbing stairs
Note: not all dogs that experience cognitive dysfunction will show all of the above clinical signs. A large 2011 study out of Australia bears this out. Researchers found that the overall prevalence of cognitive dysfunction was a little more than 14 percent, but only about 1.9 percent of cases are diagnosed. The same study found that the chances of having cognitive dysfunction increase with age, so that by the time dogs are 15 years old, 41% will have at least one sign consistent with cognitive decline while another study estimated the prevalence in geriatric dogs at 68 percent.
Therefore, every senior dog with suspected cognitive dysfunction should receive a CBC and chemistry panel, urinalysis and a neurological examination to rule out other potential causes for your dog’s disoriented symptoms or changes in behavior.
Seldom is CDS life threatening in itself, but the disease can affect the bond between a dog and its owner. Regardless of the diagnosis, you should expect changes in many of your daily routines and interactions with your dog–so be ready to make appropriate lifestyle adjustments in order to preserve the quality of your dog’s life for as long as possible.
Senior Dog Care
Senior dogs have different care requirements than those of a younger dog but by being mindful of their condition pet owners can provide appropriate geriatric care for their older, senior dog. Just because our dogs are getting old doesn’t mean that we stand on the sidelines and watch the life drain from their furry bodies.
As caring pet parents, there are things we can do to intervene and improve a dog’s ability to function and improve its quality of life into it’s senior years.
Senior Pet Care
Generally speaking, most veterinarians begin to classify dogs as ‘seniors’ around age eight–roughly equivalent to a person who is 55 years old. But with so many conditions in an older pet mimicking “normal” cognitive decline it’s important to rule out any other physical reason for these symptoms or behaviors.
For instance, if the pet is just standing in the middle of the room staring for a moment, it might be having a partial seizure. If it has disengaged with its owner, it could be withdrawing because of chronic pain, or if it’s relieving itself in the house could signal a more serious kidney disease.
Fortunately, there are treatments and interventions that can help manage and mitigate these problems and delay the progression of age related conditions to help our four-legged friends grow old gracefully.
CBD For Senior Dogs
Research has found CBD-rich hemp to be a favorable therapeutic aid to offset the oxidative damage, neuronal loss and brain atrophy that accompanies canine aging. Fortifying your dog’s diet with natural cannabidiol (CBD) can provide a measure of protection against cellular inflammation, plaque formation and age related cognitive deterioration.
In addition, pet owners have reported using CBD for dogs to provide palliative care for their older dogs with physical and psychological ailments such as pain, inflammation, epileptic seizures and cancer. CBD has also been used to relieve other non-specific conditions like allergies, separation anxiety, phobias, and canine digestive issues with great success.
According to these pet owners, the quality of their dog’s life vastly improved after using CBD. Senior dogs consuming CBD on a daily basis seemed especially happier; they slept better, had more appetite and gained back essential body weight.
Older dogs given CBD are often described as having reverted back their once youthful vigorous & vital selves. Elder dogs showed increased energy, had more stamina & endurance and were, overall, more cheerful and contented in their later years–reversing the ordinary ravages of time!
More importantly, dogs given CBD seemed more playful, lively and sociable, having regained the ability to move about freely once their previously restrictive body aches and pains were eliminated. Grateful pet parents agree, CBD can be the elixir-of-life for their dignified senior dogs. However, CBD is more than just an end-of-life, compassion-care product for geriatric dogs. Studies indicate it is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent useful for younger dogs as well.
Senior Dog Behavior
Cognitive decline and behavioral changes in our senior dogs may seem inevitable, but the extent and severity of that deterioration can be negated (and possibly reversed) with lifestyle adjustments that provide mental stimulation to your pet.
Enrichment plays a key role in slowing cognitive decline in senior dogs. Just as staying active helps a person with dementia, playing and working with the owner and other companion animals helps mentally stimulate your dog. Puzzles and toys that require mental agility can increase awareness, stimulate memory and reinvigorate your dog’s brain function.
Dog owners can “re-fresh” their aging dog’s mental perception and alertness by reintroducing training techniques previously used in their ‘puppy training days. The same high-praise, high-reward games used to first train your puppy can similarly be applied to older dogs who often need reminders to improve behaviors such as night walking, house soiling and fear phobias.
Physical exercise and ‘mental-activities-training’ are positive reinforcement techniques owners can use to revive an old dog’s behavior–and it’s important for rekindling the loving bond owners miss as their dog ages.
Aging Dog Issues
What do you do when your dog grows old? When their pads are worn and their body’s are breaking down? When their coats are thinning and their muzzles are pocked with gray? When your subtle words of praise are muted against crinkled ears? When their eyes are less vibrant and their limbs are painful and decrepit?
You do what you’ve always done–you praise them louder, you provide them additional comfort and you offer compassionate care for their weary bones–and you deliver the love reserved for a devoted, honorable friend. You grow from the experience and support their very existence by every means possible.
Older dogs understand they are weak and vulnerable, but by identifying the early mental changes that accompany CDS behaviors and managing the physical limitations beset an aging dog with natural CBD-rich hemp, you are more able to provide effective, compassionate care that your best friend wants & deserves.