As with people, aging for dogs is not necessarily painless. Joints begin to ache and stop working as they used to, causing slower movements and reaction times. Hearing and sight become weaker, also inhibiting a dog’s previous range of activities. But other behaviors are not so natural, such as sudden aggression, excessive daytime sleeping accompanied by pacing at night, and the loss of house training skills.
According to WebMD and the ASPCA, aging dog problems can spring from two sources: physical discomfort and cognitive dysfunction, similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can go a long way toward improving your pet’s quality of life in her later years; there are also medical treatment options for cognitive dysfunction.
Diagnosing cognitive dysfunction in dogs can be remembered through the acronym CRASH:
Sleep/wake cycle disturbances
House training lapses
Before a vet will definitively diagnose cognitive dysfunction, however, your pet will be tested for a wide range of potential physical illnesses that could cause similar behavior.
Lucy, Rob Pasick’s 13-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, suffered aching joints, poor hearing and limited eyesight due to glaucoma—but it never seemed to dim her spirits. Rob notes in his book about Lucy’s last few months of life, Conversations With My Old Dog, that her sweet spirit was a constant he could count on—even when she was struggling up the stairs or putting up with the pestering of a puppy.
Conversations With My Old Dog makes a great addition to any dog lover’s library and is a thoughtful gift for someone who has suffered the loss of a beloved dog. It can be ordered from this web site or from Amazon.com.