It is an unfortunate fact of life that dogs and cats (most animals in fact) will age faster than we do. The breed and size can influence how quickly they age, as well as genetics, nutrition and their environment. Most of the time, large dog breeds will have shorter lifespans than smaller dogs, and we consider a dog to be senior at 7 years of age.
A general guide for the relationship between size/breed and age in dogs:
- Great Danes are considered to be senior by approximately 5 – 6 years old
- Golden Retrievers are considered to be senior by 8 – 10 years of age, and
- Chihuahuas are considered to be senior by 10 – 11 years
Arthritis in dogs
As dogs become older, they naturally start to slow down. They tire more easily, which means that your older pet might not be up for the play time and long walks that it used to enjoy.
Senior dogs are also far more likely to develop stiffness in their joints, or even arthritis. As dogs age, the cartilage in their joints begins to wear out. As cartilage cells die, enzymes are released that cause inflammation of the joints and fluids, which can cause swelling.
Often, it’s not obvious that dogs and cats are in pain, and they won’t vocalise in the way that we might. It is important pay attention to your dog’s behaviour to watch for any developing signs of discomfort.
Signs that your pet may be experiencing the symptoms of arthritis:
- Decrease in their usual activity level
- Reluctance to move
- Difficulty in getting up after lying or sitting down
- Walking stiffly after sleeping or a long walk
- Struggling to navigate stairs
- Difficulty getting in and out of the car
- Night-time prowling around the house (this can be because of joint pain)
It is important that if you observe any of these symptoms and suspect that your pet is in pain, to make an appointment with your vet.
How to care for an arthritic pet
There are some simple ways to help ease the discomfort of an arthritic pet:
- Maintain their ideal weight with a balanced diet. Extra weight on their joints can exacerbate the problem.
- Provide well-padded bedding (ideally, off the floor) that is placed away from cold drafts
- Consider investing in a ramp to help your pet get in and out of cars, up and down stairs, or on and off beds or couches.
- Give dogs supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin that can help with joint diseases and mobility issues. Your vet can recommend the best brands.
Schedule regular check-ups with your vet every six months so they can monitor your pet for changes, and address any problems early. It will help in addressing issues before they become unnecessarily painful, and more expensive to treat.