Because dogs of different breeds and sizes age at different rates, “old” is a relative term. An old Great Dane can be half the age of an old Toy Poodle. A useful chart explaining the rates at which different dogs age can be found at The Senior Dogs Project. However, aging dog symptoms are fairly uniform across the species.
Reduced activity and enthusiasm is usually the first symptom, but it’s worth a trip to the veterinarian to make sure it’s not an illness or treatable disease. Dry skin and graying hair, problems with vision and hearing and behavioral changes are also typical in an aging dog. As with lethargy, too, behavioral changes may be due to a medically treatable condition and should be reported to the vet as soon as possible.
Author and psychologist Rob Pasick noticed most of these symptoms in his aging Yellow Lab, Lucy. At 13, she had lost vision in one eye due to glaucoma; recurring ear infections had diminished her hearing; arthritis meant she had slowed down considerably. But Lucy was still a sweetheart and an inspiration to Rob, as he paid close attention to her in her final few months of life.
Rob’s observations have been captured in Conversations With My Old Dog, a collection of short chapters about lessons Lucy taught him. From Lucy, Rob learned about patience, aging with grace, and the wonder of a small child’s affection.
Conversations With My Old Dog can be purchased from this web site or from Amazon.com.