First, when is your dog officially a senior puppizen? Well, if you ask qualified vet professionals, believe it or not it is 5 to 7 years old versus 7 to 9 years for most people.
Why is this important? Because, since you are responsible for your pet, you must recognize and address issues that can become present once a dog hits senior age. You made an unwritten promise to that puppy that you would take care of them forever, be their master, provide them food, and so on…including helping to heal them and keep them from pain and discomfort. However, dogs are resilient creatures and can and WILL hide issues until it cannot be hidden any longer. So here are some tips to help keep track of your pup’s status:
1. Feel their ears – are they hot or cold?
This may sound crazy, but simply feeling your dogs’ ears can tell you if their core body temperature is lower or higher than usual. Now, dogs’ body temperatures run higher than humans (around 101 to 102.5 vs around 98 for us humans) so they may feel hot to you. If they do, take their temperature and if it is normal (in the 101 to 102.5 range) then just take a mental note to that is how they are supposed to feel. If they are hotter than usual, that means they most likely have a fever and you should get them to your vet ASAP.
On the flip side, if their ears feel cold, this could be due to poor circulation or just a generally cooler-than-usual environment for them. So, first make sure they have water and are hydrated as hydration can cause poor circulation. After that, when they lay down simply cover them with a blanket. If you have a sweater or doggy jacket put that on them. Even a scarf around their neck can help.
2. Feel their nose - a healthy dog will have a cold, wet nose.
Why is a cold, wet nose normal for a dog? Well first, they are covered in hair and do not sweat and the nose, one part of their body not covered in hair, helps to regulate their body temp. So, a cold nose means it is doing its job of regulating their body temp. A cold, wet nose also helps with keeping things clean since, well, they can’t blow their nose and wash it like we do. Dog’s noses are also very sensitive to scent and touch and by remaining cold and wet, this helps to increase sensitivity.
What if your dog’s nose isn’t cold and wet but instead dry and hot? Well, first, sometimes after sleeping a dog’s nose will be dry and warm but should go cold and wet soon thereafter. Check in 10-15 minutes and if it is still warm and dry, call your vet. Some breeds of dogs, such as “smooshy” faced dogs (bulldogs, pugs), have dry, chapped noses due to the structure of their face, so using their nose as one indicator of health can be unreliable. Also, sometimes with older dogs their noses become dry and chapped due to old age. If this has happened you probably have noticed this already.
3. “Listen” – are they being needy?
Is your dog following you around, staring at you, restless even after they lay down? These can all be hints that they are not feeling well or are uncomfortable. Feel their ears and nose first to see if they feel normal. Also, take them out for a quick walk to make sure they don’t have tummy or urinary issues. If they still act needy, it could be something like arthritis which happens to dogs too as they age. For my senior rescue, sometimes covering him with a blanket helps as he has arthritis in his hips from when he was forced to run, and the heat helps to ease the discomfort.
Please keep in mind that, while dogs are like us in many ways, they are still very different and things that help ease our aches and pains like aspirin can be harmful for your doggy. Avoid self-diagnosing issues with your dog and always speak to a good vet if you find that things aren’t “normal”.
We always recommend PetCoach’s “Ask a Vet” online chat if you want to ease your mind somewhat if you cannot speak to a vet right away. Also, we love to help when we can, so feel free to reach out to us. Best way to ask us a question is on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hellopuppy/