I have an old terrier, Franky. He’s 13 and up until now I’ve been very lucky. He’s been perfectly healthy. But now he’s getting older, what should I be looking out for on a routine basis to ensure I pick up on any health issues early? – Tom
Well done Tom for getting Franky to 13, and I’m sure that since you are being diligent in his care, he will still keep going for a few more years. There are certainly some things you should look out for at home when you have an aging dog, as well as things your vet can check for, once or twice a year.
An older dog will be more prone to heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, cancer and loss of senses, such as sight. Sometimes the symptoms of these can be very subtle early on, but the earlier you notice signs and visit the vets, the better the long-term prognosis. The following are symptoms that you should look out for:
Heart Disease – Exercise intolerance, fainting, coughing, increased breathing rate and depth, increased heart rate, slow gum capillary refill time, pale or dark red gums.
Liver Disease – Vomiting, loss of appetite, yellow gums, yellow stools, seizures or behavioural changes, lethargy, weight loss.
Kidney Disease – Increased urination, increased thirst, weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, pale gums, dehydration, poor hair coat, smelly breath.
Cancer – Visible lumps, swollen lymph nodes under the chin, in front of the shoulders, under the elbows, in the groin and at the back of the lack legs, general off-colour, lethargy, coughing, increased breathing rate and depth.
Loss of senses – Cloudy eyes, knocking into things, not following a ball which has been thrown, not responding to commands or his name, being nervous of abnormal sounds.
It is advisable to occasionally have a senior wellness check at your vets when it comes to Franky’s age. In fact, any dog over the age of eight will benefit. This will include a physical examination, checking the teeth, eyesight, heart, lungs, abdomen and temperature. Depending on how the physical exam is, your vet may wish to carry out a blood test and blood pressure test, to fully understand your Franky’s internal health. This is a good idea to carry out once or twice every year in very senior dogs, as organs can deteriorate very quickly.