Cognitive Decline in Older Good Dogs

Health

 

Hello everyone, CEO Olivia reporting. Today I’m continuing my deep dig into good dogs in their senior years. An older dog may develop a whiter snout, need to nap more & may be just slower overall. But a decline in cognitive abilities may not be so noticeable. Subtle changes in appetite or how your good dog interacts could be clues.

Once a vet rules out a physical cause in a behavior change they will do what’s called a cognitive dysfunction (CD) evaluation. What they will look for are the following.

Disorientation – walking aimlessly around the house. Staring at walls, losing balance, or forgetting how to use the doggie door may be symptoms of CD.

Interactions – Irritability or aggression towards family members or fur siblings. Withdrawal from the family or showing less interest in things such as the delivery person showing up or walks may also be symptoms of CD.

Sleep – An older dog’s sleep patterns may be interrupted by CD. They may even reverse sleep patterns by sleeping all day & pacing all night.

House soiling – older dogs may not remember their house training & may not alert the humans to when they need to go out for business.

Activity changes – Restlessness, agitation or anxiousness. Decreased appetite. Loss of focus or interest. Some  senior dogs will forget how to get food from the bowl or forget where the bowl even is.

Cognitive dysfunction is found in around 50% of dogs over 11 years of age. Once you’ve established your good dog has developed CD, there are some things you can do to help. Try to stick to the same routine. Keep up walks & exercise even if only for a few minutes.

Just like humans we dogs need to keep engaged in life so we don’t become withdrawn into ourselves. Regular socializing with humans & other dogs is ideal but never overstimulate your senior good dog. As I mentioned in a previous post, food puzzle games can be good stimulation & can keep the mind engaged.

For a senior good dog with CD, the less stress in the environment the better. Try to keep a regular schedule. Increase bathroom trips outside. Maybe a crate will help an anxious senior feel more secure. Ramps & padded runners can help an older dog get about. If there are sleep issues, perhaps sleeping with you may help, assuming you don’t already sleep with your good dog.  With that said, some dogs pawfer to be on ground level. Orthopedic dog beds with memory foam are highly recommended for senior canines. They help ease the pain of achy joints, & the stiff foam makes it easier for old dogs to get up after laying down. Other beds retain your dog’s own heat to keep them warm.  

Diet & supplements may help alleviate symptoms of CD. This is something you should discuss with your vet before making any changes. (I’ll be barking about supplements in a future post.)

We all get old & we all know that bites. But armed with knowledge, wisdom & patience a good dog’s senior years can still be quality years.

CEO Olivia

The Senior Dog Checkup

Health

Hello everyone, CEO Olivia reporting. Today I’m barking about the impawtance of regular vet checkups for your senior good dog. As we age, regular exams become more important to keep us in peak health.

A complete blood count should be done twice a year once a dog has reached it’s senior years. This can detect slight changes in red & white blood cell counts that might be clues to an underlying condition. This test should also be done if your older dog is showing any sign of sickness such as a change in appetite.

A similar tests is a blood chemistry analysis. These tests will show how well the internal organs are functioning. A blood chemistry analysis will check liver enzymes, kidney function, blood protein levels & blood sugar count ( note: liver enzyme fluctuations can be triggered by stress, dehydration or eating, I’ll be barking more about this topic soon). These tests are key in early detection of organ failure or disease that may be  treatable if caught early.

A good dog’s thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism & energy levels. A Thyroxine screening can detect a common condition in dogs called hypothyroidism. It can cause lethargy, weight gain & poor fur & skin. Luckily it’s easy to treat with medication.

A urinalysis is just what it sounds like, an evaluation of pee. It can reveal a lot of information & can reveal conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, bladder stones & even certain cancers. This test should be done annually or if your good dog appears to be having difficulty peeing, peeing too often or if the pee smells bad or appears to have blood in it.

Finally, chest X-rays or Thoracic Radiographs can help your vet to evaluate the lungs & heart. Again, these tests can be key in early detection of an underlying condition such as heart disease, asthma, allergies & certain cancers.

We all slow down as we age, but sometimes the slowing down isn’t due to age. Working with your vet you can develop a regular screening program so that together you can ensure a healthy, comfortable life for your aging good dog.

Next week I’ll be barking about what you can do to keep your senior good dog happy & healthy.

CEO Olivia

When Is A Good Dog A Senior?

Health

Hello everyone, CEO Olivia reporting. Today I’m barking about when is a dog a senior. Depending on the size of dog, we actually age at different speeds with smaller dogs generally having longer life spans than bigger breeds. This is unusual to dogs, in nature the general rule is the larger the animal, the longer the life.

The later third of life is usually what we mean as a senior dog. For a large dog that could be as early as age four, while a chihuahua isn’t a senior until age 8 to 10 years. Trying to compare human years to dog years isn’t as easy as what some humans assume, that being one dog year is about seven human years. That one size fits all approach is inaccurate.

The reason why big dogs have short lives isn’t clearly understood. One theory speculates that larger dogs have a higher level of a growth hormone called IGF-1 which is associated in humans with increased risk of death from age-related diseases such as cancer or heart disease. But at the moment all we really know is big dogs simply age much faster than smaller dogs.

Veterinarians recommend starting geriatric checkups for small dogs around age 11, for medium-sized dogs at around age 9, & for large dogs around age 5.

As dogs enter the senior years, regular checkups become more impawtant to confront any concerns as early as possible. Mobility & cognitive abilities will decline as we age, but regular exams can determine what is normal aging & what may an underlying, treatable health issue.

Also as we age, we’ll need more support in the way of adding supplements & adjusting our lifestyle & diets. Both can help maintain & pawmote quality of life. We will come back to this in another blog.

Next week I’ll explain some of the tests recommended for senior dogs & why they are important as your good dog grows old.

Love & celebrate senior dogs everywhere,

CEO Olivia 💜