Depending on size, your buddy will reach his golden years between ages 5 and 7. As a senior, it might seem like he prefers to spend his days lazing about and disregarding the call for walks. However, as dogs age their bodies aren't as spry. He's not choosing to be lazy, per se; it's simply the natural aging process.
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As youngsters, most dogs love to spend time running around chasing squirrels, tennis balls, other pets, you name it; exercise and canines are like peas and carrots. When Spot gets older, all that movement can catch up with his joints, especially if he's a larger breed. Arthritis can limit your buddy's mobility, making the "get up and go" more like "sit up and yawn." This doesn't mean he can stop exercising altogether though. He'll still require daily walks, but they'll be shorter and at a much slower pace than when he was a youngster. As he gets older, it's also a good idea to help him maneuver steep stairs and the jump into the car. Consult your veterinarian if your buddy seems particularly lame and slow to rise. Your vet can prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to ease his stiffness.
Older dogs have a harder time regulating their body temperatures than their young counterparts because their coats begin thinning and their metabolisms slow down. The seasonal shift from summer to winter may have your buddy resisting walks while he alternates between snuggling under blankets and sitting in front of the heater. Provide your senior with a light coat or jacket when temperatures dip. It's also important to limit his time outdoors during the hot, humid months in order to avoid exhaustion and heatstroke.
Unfortunately, unlike humans, dogs can't wear a pair of prescription eyeglasses to correct their aging vision. Though it may seem as though your senior buddy is distant and aloof, he might not have seen you walk into the room. As dogs age, they often acquire vision problems and poor sight. Have patience if he bumps into that new table or better yet, avoid rearranging furniture or changing his environment if at all possible. Consistency will keep him comfortable and anxiety-free. Though vision deterioration is common in aging dogs, consult your veterinarian if your buddy begins squinting excessively or his eyes look cloudy or bulged out. These could be signs of serious ocular disease, such as glaucoma.
Your buddy didn't suddenly lose the ability to follow simple commands; he's just having a tough time hearing them. Try to make eye contact or get his attention first when speaking to him, but don't start yelling. This may startle him and make him anxious. Try to keep frustration to a minimum and understand he's probably not intentionally ignoring you, unless of course you're talking about the dreaded bath time. You might also notice him becoming more vocal. Perhaps he's started barking or howling in the middle of the night. Excessive vocalization is a common side effect of hearing loss in senior dogs. If the noise seems unbearable, consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes.
By Christina Stephens
About the Author
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.