Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
Some of these will be normal changes due to the natural ageing process; others may be indicative of a progressing disease process and as such should be addressed and monitored regularly.
To be more easily alerted to any possible early signs of disease with your older dog here are some helpful pointers:
Monitor food consumption and how much is being eaten per day: What type of food is actually being eaten e.g. does your dog tend to leave the hard kibble and only eat the tinned soft food? Is there any noted difficulty eating or swallowing? Have there been any recurrent vomiting episodes?
Also monitor water consumption: Is your dog drinking more or less than usual? Is he preferring water to food and asking for water more and more often?
Monitor his urination and defaecation: Check the colour, amount, consistency and the frequency of his stools daily. Check the colour and amount of urine passed and the frequency of and ease of passing urine. Are there any signs of pain while urinating or defecating? Has there been any recent urinating or defecating in the house
Measure your dog's weight every 2-3 months: For small dogs you can weigh yourself holding the dog, then weigh yourself and subtract to find the difference; for larger dogs, you may need to come in the surgery to use the surgery scales.
Groom your elderly pet regularly and, if he will allow, check over and clip his nails. As you are grooming him, also check his body over for any lumps, bumps, or non-healing sores. Is there any painful areas? Are there any abnormal odours? Is there any change in the size of his abdomen? Has there been any increased hair loss
Monitor his day to day behaviours and his sleep patterns, is he still obeying commands? Is there a new tendency now to be clingy around people? Are there any other changes in temperament? Has there been any house soiling? Is he easily startled now? Is there any over anxiousness when he is left alone?
Monitor activity and mobility: Is there any difficulty with stairs now? Is there an inability to exercise without tiring very quickly? Is he recently bumping into things? Has there been any noted collapse or fainting episodes, recent wobbliness or loss of balance? Has there been any lameness or change in his gait? Any tripping or suddenly losing his footing? Are his nails overlong or has he been scuffing his paws and wearing his claws down more?
Also look out for any changes in his breathing has there been any coughing, retching, panting, breathlessness, or noted exercise intolerance on his walks? Have there been any bouts of sneezing or nasal discharge?
If you are able to, do brush and check your older dog's teeth regularly and examine the inside of his mouth; has there been any excessive drooling? Are there any sores on his gums? Any bad breath? Are his gums swollen or bleeding easily? Are his gums looking discoloured: Yellowish, white, grey, light pale pink or deep red/ purplish?
Monitor the home environmental temperature and the temperature at which your dog seems to be most comfortable, is he seeking heat or is he preferring cooler places?
It is a good idea to schedule more regular check-ups with your Vet now that he is older.
Have him checked over thoroughly by your Vet and from there on then arrange more regular check-ups. This is to ensure that any ageing or disease processes can be picked up early and then hopefully advice and treatments for this can be offered.