Advances in veterinary medicine have led to increased longevity for pets, but special problems still crop up in older animals, especially dogs, either as a direct or indirect result of aging.
An older dog may suffer from a variety of major and minor ailments that do not normally afflict younger pets. Among the most important problems are kidney disorders, deafness, arthritis, eye disorders, prostatitis, and abdominal swelling.
Kidney ailments, ranging from too frequent urination to an affliction in which the dog retains his urine, are quite common in older dogs. A common disorder is nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys.
If your dog appears thirsty and drinks more water than usual, it may be a sign of nephritis and you should take him to your veterinarian for diagnosis.
Deafness is also common in older dogs. But precautions can be taken either to postpone or avoid it.
If your dog begins to run his head in a strange manner or paws persistently at his ears, you should suspect an infection, through his ears might only need a good cleaning. Remember, however, that you can do irreversible damage to the dog's ear if you dig into it yourself. So, if the difficulty appears even mildly serious, consult with your veterinarian immediately.
Arthritis is another ailment from which the older dog may suffer. One way to help is to keep your aging dog away from cold, wet, or drafty places. Your veterinarian may recommend medication or injections to alleviate the pain.
Almost all dogs will have some cloudiness in their pupils as they grow older. This is called nuclear sclerosis; a natural compaction of lens fibers that usually decreases vision, though not to the point of blindness. Cataracts are a more serious problem, usually resulting in blindness or very limited vision.
If your dog hesitates to jump on his favorite chair or balks at entering a darkened room, examine his eyes. If you see a bluish discoloration he may have a cataract and professional treatment will be required.
In the male older dog, there is the problem of an enlarged prostate known as prostatitis. The enlargement of the prostate gland may lead to difficulty in urinating. If a dog cannot urinate, his bloodstream will retain toxic substances that can spread throughout his body. So if you notice your dog is having difficulty in passing urine, you should go immediately to your veterinarian.
Any abdominal swelling that is more than a collection of fat should be brought to the immediate attention of the veterinarian. The swelling may be a result of a heart of liver ailment. Or it may be the result of an accumulation of tumors. The swelling is rarely a condition that will clear up by itself. Delay in treatment may jeopardize your pet's chances of recovery.
If your dog has regular checkups, you can be reasonably sure of protecting him against serious ailments. And if you take him for an examination as soon as you suspect something is wrong, you will be able to bring most ailments under control.