The Older Dog’s SensesThe performance of the sensory organs reduces as a dog ages, however in familiar surroundings dogs can get about surprisingly well, even with seriously reduced vision. Only if an item of furniture is moved from its usual place and the dog bumps into it does it occur to us that his senses are not as they once were! Other signs you may notice:
Impaired Vision in Your Senior Dog
- When playing ball, your senior dog may run off in the wrong direction, or only find the ball after a long search.
- Unusual fear or uncertainty when out walking – particularly in the dark – may also be a sign of failing vision. It is typical for blind dogs to reach out further with their front paws when walking. This gait, like a parade march, helps animals with orientation, as the front legs will feel an obstacle before the body bumps into it. Hearing is starts to fail with time.
Deafness in the Ageing Dog
- If your dog no longer reacts reliably to a call or whistle, it may not necessarily be a sign of deafness, but this is definitely a possibility which should be considered! Often a dog can still hear, but only sounds of a particular volume or pitch. In an emergency he may not hear the sound of an approaching car, or if he is some distance away when out for a walk, he can no longer hear you calling. Therefore try out typical sounds (the doorbell, rustling paper, etc.), commands (without gestures!) or whistling – at different volumes – on a regular basis to see whether and when your dog reacts. If you suspect that the dog’s hearing really is deteriorating, you should only let him run off the lead within ‘hearing range’ and as a precaution keep him on a lead near the road.
Be Aware of All Senior Dog ChangesIt’s important to note that dogs that can no longer see and/or hear are likely to react with surprise, or even snap, if anyone - even people they know - approach unnoticed. This is a protective reflex. You should not punish your dog for this, but make sure that all family members are aware that your pet is now older and should be approached carefully. For this reason as a matter of principle, children should never be left unsupervised even with the best-behaved dogs! Many of the senior dog changes creep in gradually and we only tend to notice them at a late stage or sometimes not at all. Therefore, it’s advisable to have your vet carry out regular tests on your senior dog to check whether they can still see or hear. As his mental abilities begin to fail, even in familiar surroundings an older dog will in time become more insecure and seek to be close to us more often, as nothing can happen to him when we are there. Old dogs in particular rely more on the love of ‘their people’ and need understanding of their situation. Thank him for the many years you have enjoyed with him with the necessary patience!
Deterioration of Bodily Functions in the Senior DogAs age increases other bodily functions deteriorate – often more or less unnoticed:
- Standing up after extended rest periods becomes more laborious over time, and the speed of walking becomes slower.
- Rest periods after exertion now last longer.
- The coat is often no longer so silky and shiny.
- Vomiting and diarrhoea occur more frequently than before.
- With the same nutritious feeding, older dogs tend to become overweight.
- Problems with joints and the back are typical symptoms of age, which particularly affect large breeds of dog, and smaller breeds with short legs and long backs such as the dachshunds