As your dog ages, you expect the usual; hip and joint problems, arthritis, failing vision, and hearing loss. But there are other challenges going on inside your pet-related to growing old. Down deep inside, your dog’s organs are growing old, too. Are there ways to help care for your dog’s organs in their golden years? Or are your pet’s insides at the mercy of Father Time?
Your Dog’s Organs and Their Challenges Related to Growing Old
Heart issues, liver disease, pancreatitis, and kidney failure can accompany your senior dog in their golden years. Generally, around the age of ten, your dog’s organs begin to wear down. And again, you can’t necessarily prevent issues with your dog’s organs as they age, but you can work to keep your faithful friend as healthy, happy, and comfortable as possible. Let’s talk about your dog’s organs and what can happen to them as your pet matures.
Your Dog’s Heart
Believe it or not, heart attacks are one of the most common issues for senior dogs. As your dog’s owner, you should be aware of the signs of heart disease. Then, if you are seeing any of the following signs in your pet, you can let your veterinarian know as soon as possible.
- Severe water retention
- Collapsing or fainting
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in behavior
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Persistent hacking cough
- Difficulty breathing: Labored breathing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing
Like us, preventative measures are key. For starters, feed your older dog a healthy diet that’s appropriate for them. Make sure they get good exercise, too. These are the best preventative measures you can take. Since early diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference when it comes to heart disease, visit your vet for a possible diagnosis and treatment plan.
Your Dog’s Liver
The liver is an amazing organ, and your dog’s body needs a healthy one to function optimally. It’s as vital to life as an organ can be. The liver is responsible for many things. It removes toxins; metabolizes fats, proteins, and carbohydrates; stores minerals, vitamins, and glycogen; produces bile acids your dog needs for digestion, and makes important proteins necessary for their blood to clot.
Liver disease is listed in the top five causes of death in senior dogs. This statistic may be because liver damage is difficult to determine. Why? Because many of the symptoms are similar to other issues affecting your dog. Take a look the symptoms of liver disease in your dog:
- A swollen belly due to fluid retention (Ascites)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Tires easily
- Loss of energy
- Hepatic encephalopathy (seizures, disorientation, depression, head pressing, blindness, personality changes)
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- An unstable walk
- Increased thirst
- Increased need to pee
- Pale, gray or white stool
- Pain associated with the abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing eyes, ears, or gums)
- Blood in urine or stool
As you can see, most of the symptoms are similar to those of heart disease. But jaundice is a direct indication the liver is failing.
Liver disease is caused by aging, genes, infection or trauma to the area, some diseases, and medications. It’s important to catch liver disease early to avoid hepatic encephalopathy, a serious brain condition.
And if your dog’s liver is damaged, it is possible to treat and manage the disease. Your veterinarian can monitor your dog’s liver through blood tests. Work closely with your vet to manage the disease and especially avoid liver failure.
- Change your dog’s diet. Your older dog may need a special diet to make sure they’re getting the nutrients and calories needed to help the liver.
- Supplements such as SAM-E or milk thistle may help your dog’s liver recover.
- Some medications can help control liver problems. And since medications actually damage the liver, you need to make changes to what your dog is taking and reduce how much is being taken.
- If your dog has tumors or cysts, surgery may be an option.
Your Dog’s Pancreas
The liver and pancreas work together to aid in the digestion process. While the liver produces bile acids your dog needs for digestion, the pancreas releases enzymes that aid in digestion. A properly working pancreas releases enzymes that become active only when they reach the small intestine.
Pancreatitis is a condition some dogs develop as they age. When your dog develops pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes inflamed, and the enzymes actually begin digesting the pancreas itself. Talk about extreme pain for your poor dog!
The warning signs may not be obvious at first. And the symptoms could be mistaken for something else less serious. This is potentially life-threatening to your dog and needs to be addressed by your veterinarian as quickly as possible, acute or chronic.
- Severe abdominal pain
- Greasy stool
- Loss of appetite
Keep your dog’s pancreas healthy and avoid acute and/or chronic pancreatitis. Don’t feed them fatty foods and table scraps. Help them maintain a proper weight and exercise them regularly. Being overweight and eating table scraps makes your dog more susceptible to pancreatitis. Regular exercise helps them maintain good energy levels which aid in proper digestion.
Your Dog’s Kidneys
Kidneys filter blood and remove blood wastes. Blood wastes come from broken down foods, old cells, toxins, poisons, and medications that are given for treatment of other diseases. These blood wastes are removed from the body with water, aka urine.
Your dog’s kidneys keep good substances their body needs, regulate the amount of water in the blood, retain water to keep hydrated and regulate blood pressure, calcium, and vitamin D. They also produce something that helps your dog create new red blood cells. Your dog’s kidneys do a lot. But when they aren’t working properly, your pet will show the following signs:
- Excessive urination
- Excessive thirst
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden unexplained weight loss
Chronic kidney failure occurs as your dog ages. Sudden kidney failure can happen to a dog at any age as the result of an accident or because they ingested a toxin.
When the kidneys are no longer able to filter out toxins from your dog’s bloodstream, the kidneys go into failure. Kidney failure can be brought on by congestive heart failure, pesticides, household toxins (especially antifreeze), infections, dehydration, and canine autoimmune disease.
What Can You Do to Help Your Dog’s Organs as They Age?
The best things you can do to help your dog’s organs function properly and help them serve your senior pet well into their later years are:
- Work with your veterinarian
- Exercise your dog regularly
- Manage their weight well
Ask your veterinarian about the benefits of laser therapy and the Spectra Therapy CANINE Wearable LASERwrap® for your dog’s organs. The LASERwrap® allows you to treat your dog’s pain and inflammation safely and effectively in the convenience of your home.
Please share your thoughts and comments below. If you have any immediate needs or questions, call us at (248) 524-6300 today.