About 25% of all dogs are considered 'aged', i.e in the last third of their lives. All dogs in this group are at risk of behavioural changes called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. This is like Alzheimer's disease in humans and is due to decreased brain function. Dogs with this problem might show confusion, loss of appetite, apathy, barking or whining at night, loss of toilet-training or irritability. Sometimes another medical disorder can trigger these changes.
Common problems of ageing
Progressive loss of eyesight and hearing
You can help your pet compensate for loss of eyesight by not moving furniture, food bowls or bedding around. Walk your dog on a short leash through unfamiliar surroundings and allow extra time for your dog to become familiar with new objects using other senses. For loss of hearing, try to use hand signals rather than verbal commands. Never permit your vision or hearing-impaired pet to wander unrestrained outdoors.
Progressive degenerative joint disease is common in aged animals. The pain and discomfort can result in difficulty negotiating stairs, difficulty rising from or settling to a prone position, inappropriate toileting, and aggression or irritability. Obesity aggravates arthritis due to the increased weight carried by the joints. Ensure your pet has well-padded, warm and comfortable bedding. Assist mobility if necessary using a sling or provide a ramp rather than stairs. Pain-relief through drugs and/or acupuncture maybe necessary.