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Changes in the Activity Level of Older Dogs

Be on the lookout for suspicious slowdowns.

So your older dog is slowing down - she spends more time napping and sitting restfully in front of the window, and she isnt very interested in a rousing game of fetch. Some changes in activity level are normal, but your older dog still needs exercise and frequent movement to keep her healthy.

Aging Gracefully
Other than a graying muzzle, surprisingly few changes are considered normal in an aging dog. A senior dog may experience deteriorating vision and hearing, a decreased ability to taste and smell, mild loss of muscle tone, dry skin, a less lustrous coat, and a subtle decrease in activity. And your pet may take many long naps, reminiscent of puppyhood, yet not want to play as enthusiastically upon waking.

These changes are not normal signs of aging - they can indicate a serious health problem. In fact, many medical conditions can cause these symptoms. If your pets activity level changes, check with your veterinarian and catch medical problems early.

Nomadic No More
Older dogs may have difficulty maneuvering stairs, seem stiff upon rising, or stop leaping for prime real estate on the couch. They also may limp, stumble, or drag their hind toes. If your dog moves hesitantly, she may have degenerative joint disease, spondylosis or bone spurs, arthritis, loss of muscle tone, or a neurological disorder.

Most of these problems can be managed with environmental modifications - including padded bedding, ramps, or gates; or your veterinarian may recommend medication or surgery. Its also possible that your dogs body condition and activity level can be revved up simply by adjusting her diet and giving her more exercise, especially if your pooch is carrying a few extra pounds.

Sleeping Like a Baby?
As your canine companion grows older, she may choose to snooze over chewing on her favorite toy. Mild decreases in activity probably arent cause for alarm, but dogs who sleep excessively during the day and then pace or whine at night may be showing signs of cognitive dysfunction.

If your dog used to sleep through the night fine and now roams the halls, her insomnia may be a sign of a medical problem. For example, she could be suffering from arthritis pain, feel itchy because of fleas or allergies, or need frequent rest stops because of a urinary system ailment.

Heart problems, thyroid gland dysfunction, and cancer can also cause your dog to slow down noticeably. If you see any changes in your pets activity, mention them to your veterinarian. Together, you can detect and treat health problems early and keep your older pet happy and living a full, comfortable life.

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