My oldest dog, Bashir, just celebrated his 12th birthday.To mark this occasion we shared homemade dog biscuits with his canine friends. I'm sure he would have preferred keeping the treats all to himself, but we shared. It's hard to watch my good dog grow older but thankfully, Bashir is a healthy 12 years old; he has some arthritis but is otherwise in great health. I have seen some changes as he's grown older, however. Just as people change as they grow older, so do dogs. Many of these changes, which include physical, health, and emotional are fairly common and seen in dogs of all sizes and breeds.
Activity Level DecreasesBashir still enjoys our walks, although I'm careful not to walk him during warm weather as he isn't as comfortable exerting himself when it's warm. Our walks are shorter, too, as he tires more quickly than he did when he was younger; keeping his body active and his joints moving is still very important. He still loves to play, and he'll often bring me a toy to play tug with or to throw. I'm thrilled to see this as a dog who wants to play is a happy dog. My youngest dog, Bones, encourages Bashir to run and chase him every day and Bashir cooperates. Their chase games are great exercise. This past year, though, Bashir is chasing Bones for shorter runs and his speed has decreased; there is no way he can keep up with or catch Bones anymore. The activity levels of most dogs will gradually slow as the dog ages. Some of this is due to muscle atrophy and is normal, but an older dog simply may not have the energy he had when he was younger. Since exercise is essential for good health, it's important to encourage play and activities, but to let the dog establish his limits. When he gets tired or his energy runs out, sit down and relax with your dog.
Good Nutrition is VitalBashir has been eating The Honest Kitchen foods all his life and will continue to do so. The best food is one formulated for all life stages. This term, "All life stages" means your dog can eat it from puppyhood through old age and that's what Bashir is doing. If you have any questions about what your dog should eat, talk to your veterinarian. The amount you feed may change, however. As your dog's activity rate lessens if the amount of food remains the same the dog will gain weight. So keep an eye on your dog's weight and make changes in the amount of food fed as needed.
Some Senses ChangeAlthough the senses of smell and taste seem to remain sharp for most older dogs, other senses can gradually change. Hearing losses are common. Not all dogs will experience complete hearing loss, but many will lose some hearing. Often it's in a certain frequency range, and you can determine this by experimenting with a variety of sounds. You may find your dog can no longer hear many sounds in the lower frequencies (deep voices, for example) but can hear higher frequencies (such as a whistle). Knowing what your dog can or can not hear will help you make adaptations for him. Maintaining communication with your older dog is important, both for his safety and to let him know he's still loved. Over this past year I've noticed a haze over Bashir's pupils. He doesn't have cataracts but instead, has lenticular stenosis. This blueish haze doesn't affect his vision; Bashir can still see well, but the haze is visible to me when I look at his eyes in bright light. Cataracts and other vision problems can also occur as dogs age and these can affect his ability to see. If you notice anything different in your dog's eyes, contact your veterinarian right away. Treatment can sometimes slow the progression of some vision problems.