AgeRelated Canine Diseases

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AgeRelated Canine Diseases

by Mike Mathews

Our senior dogs are living longer and healthier lives due to better nutrition, owner care and advances in veterinary medicine. However, as our dogs get older, they become subject to a number of age-related canine diseases. What is "old" for a dog? Probably the best definition is the last 25% of your dog?s life. Our aging dogs have been our loving companions for many years and we have learned to appreciate their good, or at least predictable, behavior and calm demeanor. However you recently may have started to notice changes in your dog?s appearance, activity level and disposition. In two earlier articles I discussed the symptoms and treatments for the two most common age-related diseases ? Canine Arthritis and Dog Diabetes. These are two diseases that can be managed if you recognize the symptoms early enough to seek help from your veterinarian. However, there are a number of other diseases that dog owners should be watching for.

As always, when you observe any significant changes in your dogs diet, activity level, temperament and/or weight loss, then consult with your veterinarian. Treatment costs can be expensive and the early purchase of pet health insurance may be a good decision. Some other common age-related diseases such as Deafness, Blindness, Glaucoma, Cataracts, Dental Disease and Cancer are discussed below.

Deafness or hearing loss in older dogs is fairly common. As dogs age their internal hearing structures often start to deteriorate. Behavior changes and symptoms include: continued sleeping when you arrive home, ignoring voice commands, startling easily and even snapping when woken. You will have to adapt and train your pet to recognize hand signals. In order to get your dogs attention, you will have to resort to stamping your feet or flicking a flashlight on and off or even purchasing a remote control vibrating collar. Some attempts have been made to use hearing aids with deaf dogs with poor success as many dogs won?t tolerate them.

Cataracts cause some loss of vision and can be inherited or develop with age. Most cataracts develop slowly with age and cause cloudiness in the clear eye lens. If cataracts are allowed to develop, they will eventually cause blindness and become quite difficult to correct. Early symptoms are cloudiness in the clear eye lens and impaired vision resulting in clumsy behavior or cautious movements in unfamiliar locations. If you notice your dog bumping into furniture, then it is time to have your vet examine him for vision problems. Cataracts can be removed but the treatment is quite expensive.

Glaucoma is a very painful disease in which fluid pressure increases inside the eyeball. The tendency to develop glaucoma can be inherited or it can develop in older dogs or dogs with untreated cataracts. Glaucoma can occur very suddenly and needs to be treated immediately to prevent blindness. Symptoms include pawing at a painful eye, excessive tearing, cloudy eye lens, bloodshot eye, enlarged eyeball and tipping of head to one side to try and relieve the pressure. Take your dog to the vet immediately, who, upon diagnosing glaucoma, will prescribe eye drops to be given to your dog several times per day.

Blindness or partial blindness tends to develop more often in elderly dogs as a result of cataracts, glaucoma or more often progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Unlike the first two causes, there is no cure for PRA, in which the retina progressively deteriorates over time. The tendency for PRA can be inherited and it is why breeders test the breeding parents for the disease before selling their pure-bred puppies. Symptoms include clumsiness, reluctance to go outside at night, moving more cautiously and permanently dilated pupils. Your dog can still have a good quality of life as a blind dog but you will have to adapt to meet his needs. Always keep his food and toys in the same place and don?t rearrange furniture. Pick up objects that he may trip over. Expect your dog to always be near you as he will be dependant on you. If your dog has partial sight, then keep the lights on at night so he can find his way around.

Cancer is the major cause of death in senior dogs. Early diagnosis of cancer can result in successful treatment. There are a wide range of symptoms that can alert you to problems that may be caused by cancer. These include: difficulty in eating or swallowing, weight loss, loss of appetite, sores that won?t heal, abnormal growths or swellings, and bleeding or discharge from body openings. Your vet will look for external and internal cancerous growths and then do a biopsy. If the growth is cancerous then he may suggest surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Your veterinarian will discuss the cost and probability of success of the various alternative treatments.

Dental Disease or periodontal disease is very prevalent in middle-aged and older dogs. Just like in people, the bacteria on a dog?s teeth turn into plaque and tartar deposits. Unless the plaque is removed, the bacteria can attack the gums and cause pain and inflammation, gum recession and loose teeth. Symptoms include receding gums, bleeding gums, loose teeth and bad breath odor. Your vet can recommend the best treatment. Brushing your dog?s teeth needs to be started when they are puppies, otherwise your dog will refuse to tolerate it and you will have to have your vet regularly clean your dog?s teeth under anesthetic. A number of products will help control plaque. These include rawhide chews, dental chew toys such as Hercules bones and Greenies. However if the dental disease is advanced then don?t give your dog hard chew toys which may result in broken teeth.

Additional information on senior dog care can be found at Older Dog Care

Mike Mathews is a contributing writer and editor for the popular dog breed site: Dog Breed Facts. He provides informative, real-world advice and tips on dog breeds, dog health, dog grooming and more. As well be sure to check out his new E-Book Choosing a Dog For Your Lifestyle

Mike Mathews - EzineArticles Expert Author

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