Knowing the problems of the old dog is of fundamental importance to better manage the health of our four-legged friends. Let’s start by defining when a dog is old: regardless of other health considerations, average life depends on breed and size.
Average life of a dog
The maximum lifespan of a dog is set at about 27 years, while the average lifespan is about 13 years, very rarely are found specimens that exceed twenty years of age.
However, there are considerable differences related to both the breed and the various sizes. In the list below, only the size is considered.
- small dogs (weight
- medium-sized dogs (weight between 10 and 25 kg): average life 12 (10) years
- large dogs (weight between 26 and 45 kg): average life 9.5 (8.5) years
- giant dogs (weight >45 kg): average life 8.5 (7.5) years.
The value in brackets represents the average geriatric threshold, i.e. the time when the dog can be defined as old. Both values must be taken with the springs; the average life (and geriatric threshold) of a set of dogs of a given breed can be raised by improving their living conditions (one thing is spending a winter in the kennel in the yard, however comfortable, and another is spending it at home!
This is also indirectly one of the reasons why large dogs live less), nutrition (nutrition with good quality dog food is certainly better than nutrition with the remains of our kitchen, primarily bread and pasta) and exercise (medium and large sized dogs often do little exercise and have little space available).
The lifestyle is very important, but the time will come when, generally after the seventh year of life, our friend’s metabolism will begin to suffer an inevitable slowdown and he will begin to react in a less aggressive way to situations that are stressful for him. It is from this moment on that we will need more attention to try to minimize as much as possible the problems related to aging, an inevitable phenomenon that is basically characterized by the progressive reduction of the body’s ability to respond adequately to the demands of the environment in which it lives.
The problems of the elderly dog
Older dogSlower metabolism of the dog will inevitably result in a reduction in its energy requirements, which in an active dog can be as much as 20%.
There will also be a decrease in the ability to digest certain foods and it will therefore be appropriate to feed foods containing nutrients properly balanced and designed to improve the digestive process and prevent kidney disease.
An alarm bell for the possible presence of hormonal and renal problems is represented by polydipsia, a term that indicates a condition characterized by the consumption of water much higher than that which has always been normal for him; in general is considered pathological a water consumption, within 24 hours, exceeding 80-100 ml per kg of weight. Polydipsia is a symptom not to be underestimated and indeed it is a valid reason to consult your vet who can ascertain the problem by subjecting the dog to an examination of urine; the detection of urinary specific gravity will confirm or deny the presence of polydipsia.
With the passing of time, some dogs experience greater difficulties in chewing and therefore prefer to consume soft foods; the problem can be linked not only to the physiological aging of the teeth, but also to the fact that in the past oral hygiene has been neglected (take into account that periodically it is appropriate to make a scaling).
Another frequent problem found in the old age of the dog is constipation; this symptom is linked both to the decrease in gastrointestinal activity and sedentariness.
Physical exercise is extremely important for our four-legged friend because in sedentary dogs, in addition to an increase in problems of the gastrointestinal system, there is a certain increase in the risk of the appearance of diseases affecting the locomotor system. As aging progresses, our friend’s muscle mass undergoes slow but progressive atrophy and bone substance is reduced; in many animals there is osteoporosis, a condition that inevitably leads to dangerous bone fragility.
In order to try to reduce the above problems as far as possible, it is necessary to guarantee our dog friend daily exercise and to make appropriate changes to his diet. This will also limit the risk that our friend goes overweight; the latter is a great enemy of the skeletal apparatus that very often is suffering because of arthritic processes in progressive evolution that mainly affect the hind limbs. It should also be remembered that overweight also induces lung and heart problems.
Another consequence of aging is tissue dehydration; this is a problem for the skin of our friend who is more prone to phenomena of hyperkeratosis, a pathological condition characterized by an increase in the thickness of the horny layer of the epidermis. Other problems with the integumentary system are represented by an increase in the fragility of the hair, which tends to become drier. There is also a general hyperplasia in the sebaceous glands, a condition that favors the appearance of adenomas, cysts and sometimes neoplastic processes.
As age advances, there is also a reduction in the efficiency of the immune system, a problem of no small importance as it involves a reduction in the ability to cope with diseases, especially viral diseases. It is therefore very important to continue to carry out vaccinations and periodic blood tests, useful for early detection of any problems related to advancing age.
The increase in sensitivity to infectious processes also favours the predisposition to develop chronic bronchitis; the problem is then accentuated by the fact that, as a rule, the secretions of the respiratory system are less abundant, but are more viscous, which involves a filling of the bronchioles. Normally the pulmonary parenchyma tends to lose elasticity. A characteristic symptom of lung problems is coughing; it is often neglected at the beginning, but when it lasts for a long time it must cause some concern.
aging also has a worsening of the cardiovascular system; the cardiac output is reduced and there is a certain increase in the frequency of heart problems and neoplasms. With the passing of age, also the processes of thermoregulation undergo modifications and the maintenance of the correct body temperature is more difficult.
Senescence does not give any discount to the nervous system, which undergoes various changes; due to the reduction in the number of neurons, there are problems with neuromuscular performance and the risk of developing neoplasms and disorders at the neuromuscular level will increase. The visual and auditory systems will also be weakened.
Among the most serious diseases that characterize old age are neoplasms that can affect various organs, in particular the breasts in female subjects and the testicles in male ones.
Periodic veterinary examinations contribute to early diagnosis with a consequent improvement in prognosis.
The significant spread of breast cancer in female dogs has led to a significant increase in the number of studies related to this problem; these studies have shown that sterilization carried out at an early age significantly reduces the incidence of such neoplasms.