Geriatric dogs have different needs than younger dogs. Aging dogs have dog health problems, joint conditions and diseases unknown to puppies and young adults.
As your Weimaraner gets older, he may develop physical and mental limitations, just like an older person.
This is a bitter sweet time in your dog’s life. You start to see the physical and mental signs of aging. Signs of aging remind us that the end is near for our dogs.
Fortunately, your dog doesn’t know this. She simply accepts everything that life brings her and moves on. She doesn’t feel sadness at growing old and nearing the end of life, because she doesn’t have a clue about what is happening.
So it is important that you keep a positive and upbeat attitude. Dogs do pick up on your emotions.
Make a point of including your dog in family outings and walks as long as she is able to go. And remember to show your old dog affection and love. We all respond to that.
In this article, I’ll discuss aging and its effects on your Weimaraner. You’ll see these topics below:
- Signs that Your Dog is Aging
- Physical Changes in Your Weimaraner
- Sore Muscles and Stiff Joints
- Aging Dogs Lose their Senses
- My Dog is Peeing on the Floor!
- Do Dogs Get Dementia?
- Keep Your Geriatric Dog Young and Active
If you would like to learn more about specific subjects, click on the links and pictures that follow each section. If you have an aging Weimaraner, you might want to check back often, as I’ll be adding more articles about geriatric dogs.
Signs that Your Dog is Aging
When young, your Weimaraner dog aged very quickly through her baby and teenage years. And she grew fast, almost too fast! It was hard to keep up with her.
Then, when she was about 2 years old, things slowed down as she entered her adult years. Your dog became more settled and less puppy-like.
Aging speeds up again when a Weimaraner enters the final third of her life, around 7-8 years old.
A Weimaraner’s life expectancy is about 12 years, but a 7 year old Weim is considered to be a senior dog.
Your Aging Weimaraner
Since many Weinheimers remain active well into their early teen years, you may not realize that your dog is getting old…
With many dogs, aging is apparent because of a graying muzzle—in a Weimaraner that may not be so obvious…
Your dog will probably move slower and she may have trouble getting up and down. In addition, he may need your help to climb onto the sofa or get into your car.
You may find that your dog does not respond when you speak to her. In fact, she may not be ignoring you or showing an attitude. She may be unable to hear you or she may be developing dementia.
Your senior dog’s brain will actually shrink, and messages will travel more slowly through his nervous system.
This means that he will process what you say to him more slowly, and he will take more time to react. He needs to figure out what you are asking him to do.
As your Weimaraner ages, it may become more difficult to tell if she is misbehaving or if she is having medical problems. Or a combination of the two!
Physical Changes in Your Weimaraner
Aging dogs have a number of things happening to them, all at once. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect.
- Metabolism – There is a gradual decline in the rate of metabolism in your dog’s body. Slower metabolism can lead to sluggishness, more time asleep, intolerance to changes in temperature (hot or cold) and tiring easily. In addition, your senior Weimaraner may start to gain weight, even if she has always been fit and trim.
- Immune system – becomes weaker with age. Your dog can now pick up bacterial or viral illnesses easily.
- Food requirements – Your dog will need fewer calories and may need less food. Consider changing to a dog food diet with lower fat content, for seniors.
- Weight gain – especially if a dog’s diet is not adjusted to his age. Lower activity levels also contribute to weight gain. A diet designed for a seniors will help your dog stay healthy and active.
- Temperature control – Your dog’s skin will become less elastic, and blood vessels lose their ability to react to changing temperatures. Depending on the weather or air temperature and humidity, your old dog may need a sweater or a place to get into the shade.
- Bones and muscles – Senior dogs lose muscle mass, partly due to being more sedentary. Bones become thinner and break more easily.
- Skin and hair – Your dog’s hair will get thinner and his skin will be more susceptible to infections. Skin can be either dry and flaky or very oily and greasy.
- Teeth and gums – Periodontal disease is common in older dogs and sometimes dogs lose teeth because of diseased gums. Brushing your dog’s teeth can help prevent this problem.
- Urinary incontinence – Unfortunately many dogs do lose control of their pee. Some for physical reasons and others because they simply forget that they need to go outside to pee.
In addition to these common signs of aging, there are a number of senior dog health issues that are medical, just like you see in older people.
Sore Muscles and Stiff Joints
Most dogs in their golden years will have some aches and pains. Just like your pain and stiffness, after a busy and active weekend. This is due to mild osteoarthritis.
Some dogs have more severe cases of arthritis and weaker muscles as they age. If your Weimaraner dog is experiencing a lot of pain and weakness, she will need help with some of her activities. This is especially true if your dog has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Warmth helps relieve the pain of arthritis. You can apply heat to especially sore joints and muscles. A little heat can feel pretty nice on those old stiff bones. A pet bed warmer is like having a heating pad in bed with you. Your arthritic dog will appreciate the pampering.
Or if you know your dog has a problem with stiffness, perhaps an orthopedic bed would help. An orthopedic dog bed is designed to support geriatric dogs’ old bones and make them more comfortable.
If your dog is having trouble getting onto the sofa or bed, a pet ramp might help. Jumping on and off high places can seriously damage an older dog’s hip or leg joints. For a dog with joint issues, steps do not work as well as a ramp. Even steps become hard to navigate.
Look for a pet ramp that is non-slip and has a gradual rise, so it isn’t too steep for your old dog to climb. I also like a lip on the sides, as it will warn your dog by touch, that he is getting close to the edge.
Keep in mind how much your dog weighs, so you can choose a ramp that is strong enough to support your Weimaraner. You’ll also want to have a ramp that is long enough, with a gradual rise so that it is not too steep.
Aging Dogs Lose Their Senses
Old dogs also can become deaf or hard of hearing and lose some or all of their vision.
Even your Weimaraner dog’s wonderful sense of smell may fade.
If this happens, your dog will not be as responsive to you, or to events around her.
This usually occurs slowly over time, so it may take you a while to catch on to what is happening!
Warming your dog’s food before meals will increase the aroma for him, making food more interesting for a dog who is losing its sense of smell.
And if your dog is not totally deaf, speaking louder can help you communicate with him.
My Dog is Peeing on the Floor!
Perhaps even more frustrating, aging dogs often lose control of their urine, leaving telltale little puddles around the house. This is especially true for spayed females, but neutered males can lose control, as well.
Dog incontinence is probably one of the most difficult issues for pet owners. If you don’t get things under control quickly, your home and furnishings can be ruined by the smell and stains of urine.
Even though this is quite upsetting, don’t punish your dog. She is not wetting on your floors and carpets or in her bed, on purpose.
For many dogs, especially when there is a urinary tract infection, there is a solution. For others, there are some great products on the market that can help keep things under control.
Do Dogs Get Dementia?
Dog dementia is probably the trickiest condition for you to diagnose. That’s because the symptoms mimic so many other conditions, like deafness, vision loss or even arthritis. And often we misinterpret our dog’s slow response to defiance or bad behavior.
If your dog has dementia, she is confused and disoriented. And dogs actually can become forgetful. Aging dogs sometimes forget their training, just as older people can become forgetful and forget their manners.
Your faithful Weimaraner may have forgotten all those obedience lessons and commands that you worked so hard on! And she may even have forgotten how to hunt!
Sadly a dog with dementia can even forget her own name and who her people family members are.
Patience is required here. Remember that your Weimaraner is probably not disobeying or ignoring you on purpose.
A Little Extra TLC is in Order
Senior Dog Food Needs
Aging dogs need a little more attention than they did as young dogs. Your dog’s intestines are not as efficient at absorbing nutrients. And his kidneys and liver are not working as well at filtering out toxins and waste.
Your dog may now need a special dog food for seniors. But, make no mistake about this, she will still enjoy getting treats! However, if she is having a tough time eating hard treats, consider getting her some soft ones.
Grooming for Senior Dogs
Old dogs don’t groom themselves like they did in their younger years. Because your old dog is pretty tender in places, you’ll need to be more gentle when you groom him. Use a soft brush and remember that his skin is now thinner and it can be easily broken.
Continue to brush your senior dog’s teeth, even though he may have lost some. Pay particular attention to his gums, as a simple gum infection can get into his bloodstream and make him really sick!
Your geriatric dog’s eyes may become a cloudy blue-gray. To prevent infection, gently wipe away any mucus with a damp cotton ball. Also make sure that you wipe the skin around his eyes to keep it clean.
Check your dog’s ears frequently and clean them to prevent wax build-up. Too much wax will encourage ear infections, the leading cause of odor in dogs (both young and old).
Keeping Geriatric Dogs Young and Active
We all want to keep our geriatric dogs as youthful and active as possible. The symptoms of aging take us closer to the end, when we will have to say goodbye. We want to keep our senior dogs with us, as long as possible.
Older dogs still need affection, play and exercise. While you may need to slow down for your older Weimaraner, make sure you still include him in fun activities.
Going for walks will help to keep your dog healthy. You will have to slow down a bit for him, but the activity will help him move better, keeping his internal organs healthier. And taking walks is also mentally stimulating for your dog.
As time goes on, you’ll probably have to provide a few things to keep your dog comfortable. And you may have to make adaptations to your schedule and your home!
But, in the end, that’s a small sacrifice to pay for keeping your dog happy and with you for longer.
Upper photo courtesy of Renee V