Dogs age much faster than humans and changes in their physical and mental well-being can seem to come out of nowhere. Suddenly your fun-loving and ready-for-anythimng Dexter is reluctant to leave his warm bed on frosty mornings and takes his time climbing stairs.
His Physical HealthStiffening joints and arthritis are two of the most common conditions associated with your dog's advancing age. Pain will make it hard for your formerly boisterous dog to hop up and join in a jog, and may make him reluctant to move at all. Cold and damp weather only make these conditions worse.
At some point, you'll notice that he just doesn't bounce back like he used to. This goes for anything: injuries, illnesses, and even exhaustion. At around seven years of age, your dog's bones start to lose density, making it harder for him to heal from a fracture. Because he is exercising less, his muscles also lose mass, and the cartilage in his joints wears thin. This is the age where arthritis usually starts to become noticeable.
Less Tolerance; More IrritabilityYour dog may be headed for grumpy old fart territory, becoming irritated a lot easier than he used to. Patience tends to wear thin faster in older dogs. He may not tolerate a lot of activity like kids jumping, running and yelling around him, so it's important that he has a quiet spot to retreat to whenever he feels the need, and that your kids know not to bother him when he's in that spot. He may not be so patient when it's time to eat either, demanding his food immediately, but don't let him get too pushy. You're still the boss.
Loss of HearingHearing loss is one of those age-related hurdles that you and your dog may have to face. The loss is usually gradual, and as you notice that youyr dog is becoming less responsive to verbal commands, you will have to adapt yourself to using hand signals and other non-verbal cues. Children will have to learn not to sneak up on the dog, but to stomp their feet as they come up behind him. Deaf dogs do very well in most households, so don't look at this as the end of the world for your older dog.
Cognitive dysfunction affects thousands of older dogs each year. There is hope though. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved the use of a drug called AniprylŪ to help slow the process and improve the symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, and also approved it for treatment for Cushing's Disease in dogs.