Like people, dogs will go through stages of growth, maturity, and aging. Time passes for them as well as for ourselves and this can often be over-looked, owners must be vigilant and recognize the signs of aging in the dog as well as dad. An observant family will know that their dog has slowed down in the past year and that he/she is stiff in the mornings. Maybe they don’t jump up as fast as they use to or want to walk or play quite as much.. They see that pet is no longer an eager eater and that she sleeps more deeply and longer than usual. There maybe fatty tumors develop under the skin, or you may notice that he/she is more startled by loud noises. Aging in pets, as in ourselves, is a gradual process. Organs begin to deteriorate, senses begin to decline, and energy begins to flag. They can however, if love and cared for be kept happy and comfortable in their senior years.
Old age comes at different times for different breeds of dogs and different individual dogs. Giant breeds tend to age early, for their life expectancy is generally less than 10 years. Large and medium-sized breeds have a life expectancy of 12-15 years, while smaller breeds can often live quite a bit longer ie; 15 years or more. I have a Yorkshire Terrier that was 18years old on the 7th of April 2006 and she is still doing fine. Obviously she needs to go to the vets more often and she had problems with her hips and back legs but she still has a good quality of life and that is the important factor.
A strong, healthy dog will probably age later than a dog that is stressed by disease or a bad environment early in his/her life. That does not mean, if you have obtain a dog from a sanctuary or pet shelter that has had an awful life, that you cannot make its last years good. Once the ill-treatment stops, hopefully so will some of the deterioration. Good care and a good home will go a long way to help your pet live a better and more comfortable life. Good nutrition is vital to a pets health at any age and if this can be your priority from a puppy that is great. If however like me, your pets came to you when they were older and they were not in prime condition, good nutrition is of ultimate importance. Go speak to your vet immediately and get your pet on the right and proper road to good health and nutrition. Remember good quality food now may save you a fortune on vet bills later.
Exercise is also important in keeping your dog in good shape. You may think your fat pooch looks cute and you feel it is not fair to put them on a diet. Well! All those treats you think your dog can’t live without may be killing him/her. Your pet might be happy being pampered to death and you might be happy doing it, but so will the vet when he sends the bills. If you shrug your shoulders and say “I don’t care about the money”. Just think, you may have your little companion another 4-5 years he/she slims down and takes a walk around the block and so may you!
Don’t scold, discipline, or punish your pet for lapses in housetraining or for nipping a toddler who wakes him/her from a deep sleep. Avoid the situations when possible and deal with them when they happen, but do so without anger, remember how bad tempered dad gets when he is woken shapely. Like people your pet will have special requirement, special consideration and love and understanding. They may need to be awakened from time to time during the day to go outside. Try to tempt their appetite if it seems to be waning, maybe offer them a little treat or tip-bit, not too much now! Remember your pet is another member of your family, they deserve as much as you can afford, love them well and they will return it with bonuses. As with elderly people forgive your pet if he/she forgets her manners or housetraining.
With a little care, understanding and observation your aging pet will become and old dog several years later than for some. They will age in good health slower and continue to bring joy to the family for years to come. I lost my 18year old collie 3 months ago and one month before a 11 year old rabbit. Now I have a yorkie that is 18 and a tabby cat that will be 18 20th of September 2006. It is possible to keep them healthy even in old age.