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Aging Dogs, from Will Draper, DVM

04/13/2011

  • Will Draper, DVM:

    Here is another message from the Pet Community Board. At what age is my dog considered old? And I will ask you guys first, what kind of signs have you seen in your dogs?

  • Suzanne Anderson:

    For one, we had cataracts. And she seemed to lick her joints -- and also sleeping much more.

  • Will:

    And that's important to kind of know whether or not is she is licking because of allergies or because of joint pain. And you can tell because of where it is, that it's probably joint pain.

  • Suzanne:

    Joint pain, yeah.

  • Will:

    And like people, with arthritis and something that is very common with dogs as they get older.

  • Will:

    Even though cataracts can be -- can affect a dog of any age, it's much more consistent in an older dog. Now, you know other things you will see is graying around the muzzle, moving a little slower, sleeping a lot more is very, very common.

  • Merry Morrow:

    We have a house with a lot of stairs, and it's really tough sometimes to watch her come up the stairs.

  • Will:

    But you know there are things that you can do -- they have elevations to help get them get on beds and get upstairs -- things like that, that you can always do. Have you done anything like that for her?

  • Merry:

    Yes, we did. We put runners on all the wood floors, so that it would be easier for her paws to grip that, easier for her to get up. We actually -- I went out and bought a very expensive bed and then ended up taking an old mattress, this waffley kind of thing, folding it over, putting a sheet on it, and putting it on top of two other beds, and guess what? That's her favorite bed.

  • Suzanne:

    Dr. Draper, I have a dog that’s older than Maggie and I have been wondering if maybe he had some sort of doggie Alzheimer’s, because he used to be house broken -- and when I would leave, he would mark some place.

  • Will:

    It’s not true Alzheimer’s in the sense, but there is definitely a senility/condition that dogs can get. It’s generally called cognitive dysfunction, and really it’s just losing some of the memories and brain function that help them do the things that they did everyday of their life. Stuff like you are saying -- animals who are house trained suddenly lose ability to do that.  And it’s unfortunate, and there are some medications that can help to slow that down. There are some lifestyle changes you can make to help make the quality of life for your pet better as they go through these changes.  Unfortunately though, there is no real treatment for it at this time. It’s just keeping them comfortable, and then helping to slow it down.

  • Merry:

    Dr. Draper, I was just wondering with an older dog like Kenzie, how often should you take them to the vet just for regular checkups? And also, I’ve always made sure I was up-to-date on all her vaccines. Does she still need everything that she has had when she was a puppy?

  • Will:

    With the senior dog, you generally want to take them twice a year. There are just things that happen as dogs get older that you don’t want to wait a whole year to find out. You are a great example of that, because I am sure you finding out your dog had cancer is something that you might not have known six months prior to that. So waiting a year could mean a big difference on how well Kenzie responds to chemotherapy.

  • Will:

    So as far as vaccines, what we typically do in my practice is we start all animals off on a one year vaccine protocol, and then as they get older, we can move them to a three year vaccine protocol, which is kind of becoming the norm in veterinary practice right now. And what vaccines they get, again, depend on their lifestyle.  There is a vaccine against Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection they can get from ticks. A lot of dogs that go camping, dogs who are in the woods a lot, it’s a very good idea for them to get that vaccine.  There is a vaccine to protect against kennel cough.  If your dog boards a lot, that’s a vaccine they should get. If your dog goes to the groomer a lot, that’s a vaccine that’s a good idea. If your dog sits at home all day and it’s not around other dogs, you may not necessarily need that. So the important thing is to talk to your veterinarian and have them help you design a vaccine program that’s best for your dog.

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