How To Determine If Your Older Dog Is Sick
You and your dog have been together for many years and have shared many good and bad times. When you were a child, you could tell your parents if something hurt or was not well with you. Even as a baby you could at least cry to indicate that something was wrong. However, our beloved pets cannot do either. Besides, a dog’s pain threshold seems to be considerably higher than that of humans, and they will not whimper or cry until the discomfort is quite severe. It is, therefore, necessary for you to know what is normal for your dog, any changes will be quickly detected. One good way to do this is to develop the following habits of observation.
1. On first greeting your dog in the morning, stop what you are doing, and watch him for about one full minute, allowing him to move about as he wishes.
2. During the morning and evening outdoor activity, observe him for at least ten seconds as he moves up or downstairs, on and off a curbing, porch, etc. Let him walk a short distance ahead of you and watch his body movements for ten seconds.
3. Once a day observes the first twenty seconds of eating a meal, a full twenty seconds during sleep, complete urination, and a complete bowel movement.
Many subtle variations from your dog’s normal patterns will be noticed by doing this, even though you are not looking for anything specific. In addition, unconsciously noticed changes will register on your brain, and, during the giving of the medical history at your veterinarian’s clinic, they will come into your conscious memory. If gross abnormalities are seen, resist the urge to get upset and excited. Try to objectively watch those abnormalities, so you will be able to describe accurately what has occurred.
This observation pattern should become a habit. Though it will take practice at first, it will eventually occupy only a total of four to six minutes spread out over your waking day. Most symptoms of illness are vague, general, or nonspecific. A single symptom, by itself, is often meaningless, at best, and misleading at worst. There are so-called pathognomonic symptoms which supposedly, in and of themselves, indicate a specific illness or disease. While such symptoms do exist, they are few and far between.
How To Handle Your Dog’s Emergency Heat Stress
Both obesity and advancing years reduce a dog’s tolerance to extremes of heat. The brachycephalic breeds (those with the pushed-in face) are particularly susceptible, due to their normal respiratory difficulties. It is through respiration that the majority of your dog’s excess body heat is eliminated. When you and I get overheated, we breathe rapidly and perspire all over our bodies. Because of their hair coats, dogs are unable significantly to perspire through their skins, although a small amount does occur through the underside of the paws. For all practical purposes, excess body heat must be removed by rapid respiration.
Most dogs, other than the brachycephalics, can withstand exposure to the sun and rather high environmental temperature as long as they are free to move about. It is confinement, restraint, and excitement in hot weather that sets the stage for heat stress. The dog left inside a car in the sun, leashed to a post outside the supermarket, or held in a pen when there are other dogs nearby to excite it, is a prime candidate for this life-threatening emergency. Symptoms range from panting with a hot dry tongue, bright red mucous membranes in the mouth, rapid heartbeat, and hot, dry skin, to a dazed look, inability to stand, unconsciousness, and death. The body temperature may be between 106° and 110°F (41.1 °-43.3 °C). The chance of death increases in direct proportion to the length of time the body temperature remains that high. This is a true emergency.
If heat problems occur, remove the dog from the constraining environment to a cooler place, preferably indoors. Immediately, before anything else is done, telephone your veterinarian. If she is in, and you can get to her clinic quickly, go directly there. In the event travel time will be prolonged, she may advise you to start emergency treatment at home, under her telephone direction, and then bring your dog to the clinic. But suppose you cannot reach her by phone – you’re camping out miles from a telephone, or she is on vacation and the nearest veterinarian is in another town at a considerable distance. You must take action at once!
The most urgent need is to lower the dog’s body temperature. Immerse the entire body, except the head, in cold or ice water – bathtub, stream, river, or lake – anything that has or can hold cold water. Take care to support the dog so he doesn’t collapse into the water. Massage the skin all over the body and flex and extend the legs one at a time. This will stimulate the flow of the cooled blood back to the heart, through the internal parts of the body and to the heat-sensitive brain. If you have a rectal thermometer handy, check the temperature every seven to ten minutes until it reads 103 °F (39.4 °C). Do not cool below that point. The dog should then be removed from the water and the temperature checked with the same frequency for at least three-quarters of an hour, to be sure it doesn’t start to go up again. Once the temperature has remained stable for that period of time, take your dog as quickly as possible to a veterinarian somewhere. There are important medications that should be given to prevent the many serious complications which can follow heat stress.
Question and Answers Part 1
Is there any special training equipment that should be used for the older dog? No. A chain collar and six-foot web leash are applicable for all training sessions with a normal healthy dog, regardless of age.
Why don’t dogs get cavities except in rare instances? It is speculated that the enamel surface of the dog’s teeth is harder and more impenetrable to pathogenesis than that of humans. Another factor could be that the dog is presumed to not have amylase in the saliva as humans do; so while human starch-digestion begins in the mouth, the dog’s starch-digestion starts further down the intestinal tract. Some research has since discovered salivary enzymes.
Do dogs have to go out for walks more often as they get older? Yes, but for different reasons. If we are dealing with a normal, healthy dog, he can get along on the frequency he is used to. However, if you have an older dog that is beginning to show arthritis problems, it is a good idea to get him moving more often during the day. The older dog can also tend to get lazy, and circulation is improved with moderate walks.
Is a dog’s bladder weaker at eight or nine years old? Most of the time, what is interpreted as a weak bladder is actually a bladder infection or an ensuing kidney problem. Bladder infections can be common, regardless of age, and kidney disease is very pronounced in the older dog. Two of the most common problems in older dogs are the bad heart and bad kidneys.
If the older dog begins to urinate in the house for apparently no reason, after being housebroken for many years, would you assume this to be a medical problem rather than spite-work? Yes, most definitely. You must first eliminate any medical problems before you chastise your dog for disobedience. Medically speaking, if he is urinating in the house, this is most likely a bladder problem. If he is drinking more water and also urinating in the house, it could more likely be a kidney problem.
Is exercise bad for the older dog? No. Exercise is very good for a dog unless there are definite contraindications, such as heart problems. All exercise should be within reason. Jumping hurdles is an exercise that the older dog should not be asked to do, but walking provides healthful exercise for all dogs of any age.
Do older dogs need a different diet? Yes. They should have less total protein but a higher quality protein. Different age dogs do require different diets. Young dogs need a high concentration of protein, middle-aged dogs can thrive on the protein that exists in the average good-quality dog food, and older dogs need lesser amounts of higher-quality protein. Excess protein produces more nitrogenous wastes, which means more work for the kidneys. Dogs with kidney problems could be put on prescription dog food, or small amounts of high-quality protein, such as eggs, yogurt, tofu, ricotta, farmer cheese, cottage cheese, and hard mild cheeses, together with a lot of raw, grated vegetables. Kidney problems require low protein. Heart problems require low salt. Very often the two maladies go hand in hand.