Age is not a disease, not even in dogs. However, it is undisputed that the number of diseases increases with age, including in dogs. The veterinarians speak of multimorbidity or multiple illnesses. Studies have shown that the number of diseases increases in dogs from the age of six.
Multiple illnesses in old age can have different causes:
- Diseases that can occur at any age
- Diseases that tend to occur in old age
- Illnesses that appeared in younger periods of life were not healed and have therefore become chronic.
The causes of old-age diseases are manifold. Bodily functions decrease in their performance and the susceptibility to diseases increases accordingly. Recovery can also take longer. In addition, there are typical diseases of old age that cannot be cured but can certainly be alleviated. In principle, however, almost all organ and functional systems can be affected.
The following criteria have a significant influence on the aging process in dogs:
- Breed and size
Large breeds of dogs reach a lower average age than small ones. Smaller dog breeds are about eleven years old, large ones are about seven years old.
Overweight animals are at risk and usually, die earlier.
- Individual, species, or race-specific increased susceptibility to disease.
How can the owner tell if his dog is already old?
- The absorption and digestion of food become more difficult because:
the teeth deteriorate, the stomach and intestines work more slowly, and the liver and kidneys are less resilient.
- Fitness decreases because:
the muscles become weaker, joint wear and tear occur, cardiac output decreases and chronic breathing problems can occur.
- Sensory perception (smell, hearing, vision, but also memory) decreases.
- Older dogs are more susceptible to tumor diseases and hormonal problems.
A timely start with preventive examinations is also the best way for dogs to diagnose age-related diseases and start their treatment in good time.
Possible investigations can be:
- General clinical examination of the dog with weight determination
- blood test
- blood pressure measurement
- further examinations such as ECG, ultrasound, or X-ray examination.
Regular examinations should be carried out from the critical point in time – i.e. when entering the senior phase. During such age checks, veterinarians will always provide helpful information for healthy feeding/nutrition that is tailored to the dog’s age. This is especially true for overweight dogs.
These examinations aim to detect diseases at an early stage and to treat them at an early stage, as well as to eliminate pain and discomfort as much as possible.
Common age-related diseases in dogs are
- heart disease in dogs
- joint diseases
A disease that is still missing at this point is hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. It describes an underactive or overactive thyroid gland. In dogs, hypothyroidism is one of the most common endocrine diseases and usually occurs between the ages of six and eight years. Mainly, but not exclusively, large dog breeds are affected.
Thyroid disorders are easily treatable with medication. Adjusted diets can support the healing process.