This is Sharda again for another Miniature Schnauzer dog newsletter.
A Schnauzerís needs, behaviors and temperament will change as they age.
While this is an inevitable process, there are some things that can be done to make this positive for all involved, both humans and dog.
The key to focus on is keeping the dog as active and involved in a routine as possible.
Aging Schnauzers will have the same issues as any human when they age. You will notice that your dog may have:
One of the key points to working with an aging Schnauzer is to know the expected life span. Some breeds live longer than others, and you should know the average to determine if some of the medical and behavioral issues with your dog are due to aging or a more serious medically treatable condition.
All dogs should have yearly vet checks, but older Schnauzers may require more frequent visits. Since older dogs donít have the stamina and energy that younger dogs have, they may be more affected (even by simple conditions) than they would have been if they were younger. Below are some of the more common medical conditions to watch for in an aging dog.
ARTHRITIS, PAIN AND STIFFNESS
Senior Schnauzers are often stiff, particularly in the mornings or after long periods of inactivity. Since older dogs become more sedate naturally, it is important for the owner to watch for any signs of pain or discomfort when the dog is moving around.
Any indications of pain or discomfort can be treated with arthritis medications, and even some natural remedies that work well with dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about options to treat and reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
INCREASED WATER CONSUMPTION
Excessive water consumption can be associated with diabetes and kidney dysfunction. If the urine production increases, or the urine is very strong smelling or very pale, a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible.
Urination can be a sign of loss of bladder control without any other complication, and there are diapers and other products available on the market to help owners and dogs cope with this issue.
BLINDNESS AND HEARING LOSS
There are many conditions that can cause a Schnauzer to go blind or to become deaf. Most of these conditions can be treated or minimized with proper medical treatment.
Some dogs will go blind or deaf as they age, and there is no specific treatment to prevent these conditions. Dogs can still lead a normal life even without sight or hearing.
Keep the environment the same, particularly with blindness. Keep the dog on a leash or in a fenced yard at all times, as they will be unaware of dangers such as cars or other aggressive dogs. Your dog will rely on his or her sense of smell so make an effort to leave a worn item with the dog when you leave the house or the room.
Sudden blindness or hearing loss may be due to toxicity in the dogs system. Any sudden loss should be investigated by a veterinarian, through a check-up and blood tests if necessary.
CHANGES IN WEIGHT OR APPETITE
Senior Schnauzers will often require a special diet. They may have digestive problems that cause mal-absorption of nutrients from certain kinds of food. Talk to your vet or breeder about the best type of food for senior dogs.
Watch for any signs of bleeding of the gums or foul smelling breath, as this can signal dental or digestive issues. Dogs that have a history of digestive or dental problems in their early years often have the condition reoccur in their senior years.
MEMORY OR COGNITIVE LOSS
You may notice that your senior Schnauzer does not seem to remember some commands that havenít been used for a while. This is normal, and spending some additional time to re-train using positive reinforcement can be rewarding for both you and your dog.
The dog may also have difficulty hearing commands, so be aware of this issue.
Staying as positive with your dog as possible is critical. Avoid any kind of punishment as it really is not the dogís fault if they donít respond because they have cognitive loss.
Keep commands to the basics; sit, come, and stay. Remember if the dog has arthritis it is painful to sit and stand repeatedly, so donít ask for a lot of this type of activity.
There are several ways to make your Schnauzerís senior years rewarding for you both. Avoid trying to keep your dog doing the same activities that he or she did as a puppy and an adult dog, rather try looking for appropriate activities for a senior dog.
Remember that a senior Schnauzer may not realize his or her limitations, and will often try to complete the same activities that it did as a much younger dog. Do not put your pet in this situation.
If your dog is having difficulty with movement and exercise, keep the walks short and frequent, rather than long and infrequent.
Avoid overexerting the dog with games of fetch and Frisbee, rather try rolling the ball a short way for the dog to retrieve. Many dogs will stay playful long into their senior years, and others may not want to play.
This is dependent on the personality of the dog, so respect their changes in temperament with regards to play.
Avoid jogging with a senior Schnauzer unless you gradually condition the dog to this activity. Even with conditioning, pay close attention to any changes in breathing or any changes in gait when the dog is exercising.
FOOD AND WATER AND BEDDING
Keep high quality food and fresh clean water in easily accessible areas for your senior Schnauzer. They may have difficulty in getting around the house, so keep one room with all the basic necessities in it for the dog.
Many pet stores now sell extra thick dog beds for senior dogs, to provide extra warmth and padding. Be careful to make sure the bed and food area is at ground level, so the dog does not have to jump or step up if this is difficult.
Many dog owners allow their pets to sleep and sit on the couch or bed. Be aware that as dogs get older, this becomes more and more difficult. There are commercially available ramps and steps that can be easily moved to the couch or bed for the dog to walk up, if you wish. This prevents the need for jumping up, which can be dangerous if the dog falls.
If you donít have the steps or ramp, try to anticipate when your dog would want to sit with you, and simply pick them up and place them with you. In addition, remember that senior dogs will need assistance with getting on and off the furniture.
Incontinence in dogs will occur to some degree in every dog when they age. Females that have been spayed in earlier years are more prone to incontinence than are neutered male or intact male or female Schnauzers. This is not directly related to the surgical aspects of spaying, rather it is due to a decrease in the estrogen production.
This decrease leads to loss of muscle tone in the bladder, which causes leakage. Mostly the leakage will occur with the dog is complete relaxed and lying down or asleep.
Estrogen supplements and other medications can be used to decrease this problem. Once the dog starts on an estrogen supplement, a decrease in the leakage will be noticed almost immediately. Check with your vet to make sure that the condition is not due to a bladder infection, or other disease of the urinary tract.
Older Schnauzers require just as much attention as younger dogs. They can lead happy and healthy lives with just a bit more care and attention than they received in their earlier years.
If you have small children it is important to monitor their interactions with a senior dog, as an older dog is usually more lethargic and less tolerant of children. Make sure you praise and pet your senior dog, and keep him or her as active as possible.
Find activities that are more suitable to an older dog and enjoy spending time together.
I hope you learned a lot from todayís Miniature Schnauzer dog newsletter.