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Dogs: Old Age

The life span of various breeds of dogs is variable, but as a general rule the giant breeds have shorter life spans than the smaller breeds. One expects the old dog to become less active, less playful, and somewhat altered in appearance.

Its sight may be altered by degeneration of the lens (a normal aging process), cataracts, or optic nerve damage. Loss of hearing is not uncommon. Arthritis of the hips, knees, and spinal column may cause significant discomfort, to the point where your pet may refuse to walk about. Medical problems such as heart and kidney disease, sugar diabetes, and cancer are frequently encountered and must be dealt with accordingly.

Senility is another symptom you can expect, with a decreased attention span and regressive behavior, such as increasing inability to obey earlier training, which includes housebreaking. Understandably, your affectionate pet of yesterday will also show some changes in temperament. The dog that once loved children may now find them irritating and snap at them when they want to play.

There isn’t really a great deal that can be done to combat the symptoms of old age. The main thing to remember is that your dog is becoming increasingly susceptible to disease, and this means it should receive more frequent checkups. In approaching the treatment of geriatric patients, the aims should be to save, restore, or relieve the patient. The stress of unnecessary hospitalization should be avoided, and the most minimal therapeutic measures should be applied to produce the desired effect. Supportive care is of the utmost importance.

The subject of euthanasia is never pleasant, and it touches personal and moral issues in all of us. We all must face the question in our pet’s life of whether, by treating the disease or condition, we are ultimately offering the dog a comfortable and decent future life. If the dog cannot live its life out without pain, deterioration as a result of disease (that is, cancer), or maintain itself adequately, then humane euthanasia, intravenously injecting an over dose of anesthetic-like drug, will end its suffering quickly and painlessly.

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