As with all living things on the planet, dogs age and undergo physical and behavioral changes as time goes by. Depending on its breed, size and age, the dog experiences these signs of aging which are unfortunately normal. Thus, a large animal ages and lives shorter than a small dog. Signs of this aging appear and are even considered as indicators of senility in some cases.
The dog considered senior
The dog is considered a senior depending on its size, breed and life expectancy. Thus, a small dog becomes senior around 9 years old. A medium sized dog is a senior from 8 years old and a large dog is old from 6 years old.
The aging process in dogs
From these ages and depending on the size, the animal can start to show signs of aging of a physical, psychological and/or physiological nature. The coat becomes gray, the senses begin to be altered, he has difficulty moving, but he may also be incontinent, anxious or show signs of senility. This aging process does not happen all at once and takes place over several years, and it is necessary to recognize certain signs in order to adapt a lifestyle that corresponds to his possibilities and to better accompany him at the end of his life. If it is easy to see that a dog is aging, it is not so easy to recognize if he is senile. Here are some elements to determine it.
The senility of the old dog
A dog that is older than 8 or 9 years, depending on its size and breed, may show unusual behavior. He may have a cognitive dysfunction. In this case, the dog may be suffering from senility like a human with Alzheimer’s disease for example, which is a degenerative disease. In the animal, it is the same, but we often put these signs on the back of old age and not of this disease whose signs are similar and which we qualify as canine dementia.
Note that: senility in dogs does not affect their life expectancy, but only the quality of their daily life and yours as a result. The earlier senile dementia in dogs is diagnosed, the easier your life together will be. Here are several signs that should alert you very quickly.
When a dog has senile dementia, there is a decrease in interaction with other dogs and the humans around him. Previously, you may have noticed that your dog loved to go for walks. In this case, he comes without the slightest expression of joy and does not even seem to recognize the places or the other dogs that you usually pass.
Waking up in the middle of the night
Waking up in the middle of the night is one of the first symptoms of a dog with senility. He sleeps more and more during the day and less at night, wandering around the house without knowing what he wants. This is nocturnal wandering and is a symptom of cognitive dysfunction.
Your dog has never been anxious and yet you realize that many everyday things stress him out, such as
- He can’t stand to be alone
- You can’t leave him alone anymore because he cries or starts barking
- He is afraid of a new route
- He shakes at the slightest change
This change in attitude is similar to irrational fear, which is another sign of canine senility.
The dog does not concentrate anymore
Your dog has been very well trained and obedient to your commands since he was a puppy. For some time now, you have noticed that he can no longer concentrate when you send him a command or request. He seems lost.
Your dog has always been gentle and never exhibited any aggressive behavior. For some time now, he has been becoming aggressive with you or the people around him, even though he knows them well. In this case, he is subject to a crisis of confusion and this behavior is known to enter the senility of the old dog who is afraid of the unknown, so he becomes aggressive.
The dog is disoriented
If your dog seems disoriented or even completely lost in a familiar place, he has a problem related to senility. He may not be able to find his way around, or even know how to get to the yard.
Depression related to senility
When a dog becomes senile, he may become depressed. In this case, nothing interests him anymore. He becomes apathetic, withdrawn and no longer wants to play or ask you for a pet. This cognitive dysfunction is often linked to the evolution of senility.
Your dog will swallow anything that comes his way. This may be edible or inedible food. On the other hand, your dog may not eat much and may lose his appetite. These disorders, if not symptoms of an underlying disease, are symptoms of canine dementia.
How to improve the life of a senile dog
If the veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with dementia, you can help improve his daily life. The veterinarian will prescribe medications that are appropriate for the condition. At the same time, you must change his food, which must include fatty acids such as melatonin and omega-3.
Take him outside at least once a week, even if you have a garden where he spends time. Secure his immediate environment so he’ll be less afraid. You still need to avoid making him run around, avoid noises that could scare him. Don’t yell at him too loudly, because he won’t understand what’s happening to him. Continue to pet him and give him treats if he likes them.
All of these things will make daily life easier for your aging pet. At the same time, you’ll improve his comfort and life expectancy. In some cases, food supplements are desirable as well as a homeopathic or phytotherapy treatment.