Common Questions About Aging Dogs Answered in Good Old Dog
Q: Regarding a dog’s age, is it really seven human years for every year lived?
A: Not exactly. For a medium-size dog who weighs between twenty and fifty pounds, yes, that’s about right. For a large dog, one who weighs more than ninety pounds, every year of life is closer to the equivalent of about every eight human years. For a small dog under twenty pounds, each year is the equivalent of about six human years. That’s why small dogs, on average, live longer than large ones. They "use up" fewer years with each year of life.
Q: If I choose a dog food that says "senior" on the label, I’m giving my older dog the nutrition he or she needs, right?
A: Who knows? "Senior" is a marketing term, not a specific nutritional term, so it means whatever the manufacturer wants it to mean. Some "senior" dog foods are high in calories, some are low in calories, and some have a nutrient composition that is not well balanced for all older dogs, with levels of sodium, protein, and other ingredients all over the map. The only way to know if a food is right for your geriatric dog is to make sure there’s a sentence on the package that says the food is appropriate for maintenance, not for growth or gestation and lactation.
Q: If a dog has arthritis, she or he will limp, right?
A: Not necessarily. If the arthritis is in the same spot on both hind legs or both front legs, the dog may waddle or shuffle. That is, the gait will look symmetrical, unlike a limp. But waddling and shuffling are not normal ways of walking, and a dog who is not walking normally should be taken to the vet for an exam.
Q: Why is it that dogs with cancer who are on chemo don’t go bald?
A: It’s rare for a dog on chemo to lose hair because dogs get lower doses of chemotherapy for their size. In people, the aim with chemo is to try to cure the cancer. In dogs, it’s to extend life but not rid the body of the malignancy. Since chemo can be so debilitating, with side effects that include nausea, diarrhea, and infections, and since an older dog with cancer will lose not decades of life but only a few years at most, the veterinary community feels it is not right to put such a dog through a medical regimen that will destroy the quality of life while affording the animal only a few extra months to a couple of years.
Q: Why is it that you never hear of dogs dropping dead of a heart attack?
A: Dogs don’t get heart attacks, generally speaking. They get heart failure, a progressive disease that takes its toll over time. Fortunately, much can be done to forestall the effects of heart failure and grant an affected dog several more years of good-quality life.
Q: My ten-year-old dog doesn’t come when I call him anymore. Is he falling prey to age-related dementia?
A: It’s hard to say. He might just be going deaf. Dementia is a bit tricky to diagnose in dogs because they are unable to communicate in words that they don’t hear or can’t see as well or have other declines that could be mistaken for dementia. Good Old Dog has a checklist with constellations of symptoms that, taken together, indicate when you should take your dog in for a neurological evaluation to see if he has the canine version of Alzheimer’s. New methods to treat the disease are emerging, and the sooner your dog is correctly diagnosed, the better chance you have of stalling any cognitive decline.
Q: A dog will let you know when "it’s time" to put him down, right?
A: Not necessarily. Many conditions in older dogs that look like "this is the end" are very treatable. While we believe that euthanizing a dog who is in constant pain and has no quality of life left is a responsible and loving thing to do, you should never make a choice to euthanize without first taking him to the doctor for a professional workup. We’ve delivered the good news to many dog owners that, despite their fear, the dog’s time has not yet come.
"A must read for pet lovers who want to ensure their dog has quality golden years."
— USA Today
"Sure to become the most important resource you can have to guide you through your dog's senior years. The advice gathered from the leading experts at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is presented by Dodman in a convivial and reassuring voice. This book will take the mystery out of caring for an aging dog."
— The Bark
"A great book on a very important subject. Having recently lost my 16 1/2 year old Shi Tzu...it really hit home."
—Betty White, actress and animal activist
" Essential reading for making treatment decisions for your companion. GOOD OLD DOG offers lots of practical, easy to understand advice about veterinary care for older dogs.
—Temple Grandin, author Animals Make us Human and Animals in Translation
“Everyone with an aging dog should have this book…. The idea behind Good Old Dog is that old age is not a condition but rather it is a stage of life. With clear, insightful recommendations and examples it helps you deal with the issues associated with a puppy that can now be considered to be a senior citizen.”
—Stanley Coren, PhD, FRSC, author of The Modern Dog
“If you love your aging dog, you want his golden years to be as happy and healthy as possible. This unique book will help dog owners understand the best health care options for aging pets. It contains the accumulated knowledge and experience of a group of Board Certified Veterinary specialists. This is a must-read for dog owners.”
—Bash Dibra, internationally acclaimed animal behaviorist, celebrity dog trainer and author of six books including Star Pet
"Written by experts in their fields, "Good Old Dog" provides a timely and complete reference for every owner who wants to take the best possible care of their well-loved older dog"
— Dr. Nick Trout, veterinary surgeon and author of Tell Me Where It Hurts and Love is the Best Medicine.