Maybe he doesn’t chase every squirrel in the yard these days. And he’s a little slower to get up to greet you when you come home. Then there’s that gray creeping into his muzzle. Your dog is getting old. But dogs are living much longer, fuller lives these days with the help of loving owners and caring veterinarians. For some tips on caring for aging dogs, we turned to Marty Becker, the nationally known veterinarian, author, and television regular, including regular spots on “Good Morning America.”
Over the last two decades, the role of the domestic dog has undergone significant change. Dogs who used to live in a house with family members around all day, every day-and who had a big backyard in which to play and chase rabbits-may find themselves in an empty house 8 to 10 hours a day and being taken on a leash to a place to eliminate. Some dogs have a difficult time adjusting to this lifestyle, and many behavior problems occur because dogs are on their own and entertaining themselves inside...
A: That’s highly variable. In general, the giant breed dogs age much faster than the large breed dogs, which age much faster than the small breed dogs. A Great Dane or a mastiff can enter into the older phase of life at five or six. The medium-sized dogs, like cocker spaniels or corgis, the ones that are in the 30- to 50-pound range, we start considering them older at about age eight. Then for the smaller dogs, your Shih Tzus, the toy poodles, it’s about eight to 10 years.
Q: What are some of the physical signs that my dog is getting older?
A: Often it progresses so slowly that a lot of times people just don’t notice it. Graying around the muzzle, on the chest, on top of the head. There are more lumps and bumps and eyelid tumors, and those are just signs the immune system is starting to slip a little bit. They’re not as playful and active. They can have jutting hip bones, muscle wasting. They just don’t have a spring in their step. The stairs become forbidden, they don’t want to jump up in the back of a pickup truck any more. Their senses start getting dull -- their eyesight isn’t as good. Their hearing isn’t as good.
Q: As my dog ages, are there mental changes I should look for, too?
A: They can become less social or even more aggressive as they age. There can be house soiling accidents. They’re not as interested in their food or play.