5 Common Signs Your Aging Dog Needs to go to the Vet

5 Common Signs Your Aging Dog Needs to go to the Vet

We all want to give our dogs the best care possible, but we also don’t want to spend money at the vet for no reason. As our dogs age, it can become stressful to answer the question, “Does my senior dog need to see a vet?” Dogs, especially seniors, can have off days where they don’t feel good – maybe they played too long yesterday and are sore and tired today. Take it easy, and tomorrow they will be fine, no vet needed. But other times, your aging dog’s change in behavior could mean something serious. While it’s always an individual judgement call, here are some common signs that your aging dog should go to the vet.

#1 – Sudden Weight Loss or Weight Gain

If you haven’t changed your dog’s diet or exercise habits, and all of a sudden, he has dropped a lot of weight or gained it, he could have a health condition such as Cushing’s or thyroid, or even something as simple as a parasite, like worms. It’s a good idea to take her to the vet to find out what’s causing the loss or gain.

#2 – Change in Appetite

This symptom may be seen in conjunction with the above weight loss or weight gain. Your dog may seem uninterested in food or is now acting like he is starving all the time. Again, if you haven’t changed his diet, this could be a sign of any number of senior dog health issues, including cancer and thyroid trouble, so it’s a good idea to take him to the vet for a once over.

#3 – Change in Fur

A change in fur quality can be caused from a diet change or from a grooming product, so think about whether you have changed your dog’s diet, shampoo, conditioners, or detanglers in the last two months before heading to the vet. But, hair loss or dry, brittle hair can be caused by several deteriorating health conditions, including thyroid and Cushing diseases, so if you don’t think diet or grooming products is the culprit, it’s time to visit the vet.

#4 – Having Trouble Getting Around

As dogs age, their joints and muscles can get weaker or a bit arthritic, just like ours. It’s normal for your senior dog to slow down and not be as spry as she was a puppy. And of course, if she is overweight, that can cause her to have more trouble (simple solution – keep your dog at a healthy weight and remember to continue to exercise your senior dog, as it’s better for their joints. Just remember she may not be able to handle as much exercise as she did when she was younger). But if your notice your dog cannot get up from lying down or sitting without great difficult, or appears to have weakness in the hind end, is whining or yelping in pain when trying to move, it’s a good idea to take her to the vet. They may have severe arthritis that requires pain relief medication or they may have something else going on such as hip dysplasia.

#5 – Lumps

Most dogs get lumps as they age. Many of them get “fatty tumors,” which can be any size – from small or quite large and noticeable. These tumors are soft and easy to manipulate when felt and are almost always benign. You can usually ignore them unless they start to grow rapidly, or are in a location that hinders your dog (for example a large one on a joint may make it hard for your dog to walk), or are so big its become a hinderance. However, if the tumor is hard, not moveable under the skin, it should be checked out by a vet as it could be malignant. It is important to note that fatty tumors can sometimes become cancerous, so keep an eye on them, and ask your vet if you are concerned.

At the end of the day, remember you know your dog best. Even if his symptoms are not on this list, if you feel he needs to see a vet, do it. Listen to that voice inside you, it’s usually right. You can also try call your vet and explain the symptoms your dog is showing, and they may be able to help you decide if he needs to be seen in person.

Unnatural Behaviours We Expect from Our Dogs

Unnatural Behaviours We Expect from Our Dogs

We humans tend to expect any animal living with us to conform to our ideas of proper behaviour. Let’s face it – we are a pretty demanding lot. Dogs are expected to be model citizens, not animals, not humans, but something in the middle. The problem is, they ARE animals. Thousands of years of domestication has not changed the fact that they are a predatory animal with strong instincts.

It’s worth thinking about before you get a puppy, or the next time your dog does something that makes you cringe (or want to yell), or when you get stuck in your training and can’t figure out why your dog just won’t stop doing a behaviour you find revolting. (Put simply: it’s not revolting to him!)

Here is just a sampling of things we expect from our dogs that really are unnatural:

Eating Harmoniously with others

I’ve had people tell me they can’t feed raw meaty bones because one of their dogs will attack the other one…. Of course, they do! Dogs, like most animals, have a very strong survival instinct which puts food at the very top of their basic needs and therefore is valued most. So, it makes sense that one dog would want to steal another dog’s food. It really is survival of the fittest.

(Of course, this can easily be solved by feeding your dog’s separately, in crates or different rooms of the house. This also ensures one of your dogs does not get overweight while the other gets skinny).

Sharing

Along with this idea of stealing food, comes the idea that dogs should share their toys, beds, and even people. Yet, again, dogs value resources! Anything your dog sees as a resource she may be inclined to guard. This is natural instinct! In extreme cases, it can be a real problem, for example guarding their owners from other people in house, or not allowing people on the couch. However, in most cases, it’s just a dog that won’t share their toys or dog beds with the other dogs in the house or won’t let the others drink out of their water bowl.

(For the latter, a simple solution is to always have at least one extra of everything. So, if you have two dogs, you have three beds, three water bowls and several toys out. This way the resource guarder will always have “something.” For the extreme cases, it’s best to consult an animal behaviourist)

Co-habiting with other species

Dogs are predators and yet we expect them to live with other prey animals nicely – rabbits, guinea pigs, and whatever else we have as pets. Even cats, another predator, are prey to a lot of larger dogs. We expect the animal kingdom to change its way because it’s inconvenient for us, but the fact of the matter is, many dogs see these animals as dinner, not friends.

(One solution is to separate your dog from other pets if his prey drive is too strong. To prevent this situation, chose your breed of dog carefully if you already have other pets in the house or think you may want to down the road. Hunting breeds will be more likely to have a strong prey drive versus a dog from the non-sporting group. Young puppies need a lot of appropriate socialization with other species – and the help of a professional dog trainer can make the process more successful.)

Not chasing prey

Similar to co-habitation with other species, expecting a herding, hunting or terrier breed to not chase other animals is a big ask. Not only does their prey drive tell them to do it, humans have actually bred more of this instinct into them to better serve our purposes of hunting, herding, and retrieving over generations. But now that most of us no longer hunt or herd, we expect our dogs to give up it just like that. Not going to happen in most cases.

(A solution here is to again, choose your breed carefully before getting a puppy. If you don’t want to have to worry about a dog that wants to herd the cat or kids, chase every bird from the yard or endlessly retrieve balls, rule out those breed types when searching. Otherwise, you will need a lot of patience and a way to give your dog an outlet for this instinct – as you CANNOT remove the instinct or train it out of them. That’s like saying you can train your body to not react to a reflex test.)

Male dogs not marking their territory

Again, we are fighting against animal instincts here. Your male dog sees absolutely no reason why he can’t mark the house he lives in – after all, that is exactly what his instincts tell him he should do and no amount of shouting from you is going to make him understand that. Why some male dogs seem more prone to marking in the house is a bit of a mystery. Many people have male dogs that never mark, whether neutered or not. It could have to do with the dog’s confidence in himself – a less confident dog may feel the need to mark their territory more often.

(If you have a male dog that is a marker, a canine behaviourist may be able help you find out what is triggering the instinct – sometimes it’s something as simple as a change in your schedule or a move to a new house. Otherwise, you may be happier making him wear a belly band.)

Greeting every strange dog/person

For some reason, we have this weird idea that our dogs should LOVE to say hi to every dog, person, cat – whatever – they come across while out and about. But why? We humans don’t even do that! And we certainly don’t get all up in each other’s personal space upon first meeting! And neither do wild dogs, wolves, coyotes, or pretty much any other animal. In fact, usually in the wild animals only go up to strange animals for a couple reasons, including mating, fighting over a resource, or to eat the other animal. So, it’s no surprise many dogs – especially leashed dogs that cannot escape – do not want to greet everything that comes by, and some respond by getting reactive.

(The solution here is an easy one – if your dog doesn’t want to greet, don’t make him! If you are planning on having your dog be a therapy dog that visits hospitals and such, pick a breeder that breeds for temperament, especially outgoing and friendly. And, respect your dog if it turns out he is not suited for that type of work. If you don’t, it can lead to biting and other behaviours that are even worse than a dog that doesn’t want to greet.)

These are just a few things we expect of our dogs every day that go directly against their instincts. Being aware of this can help us be better dog owners. Instead of getting angry when our dog does something, we think is inappropriate, we can step back and ask “why did he do it?” and “what can I do to give him an outlet for his instincts that is more appropriate to me?” This will lead to a better relationship between dog and human.

Is the German Shepherd Dog the Dog for You?

Is the German Shepherd Dog the Dog for You?

Although the name implies a gentler ancestry, German Shepherd Dogs are most widely recognized as police or military dogs. They are seen as intelligent protectors, making them an attractive dog to many people in many different situations – from obedience competitors to those looking for a family pet. If you have been thinking about adding a German Shepherd Dog to your family, check out this information sheet to help you decide if the German Shepherds is the dog for you.

Breed History

As the name implies, the German Shepherd Dog was developed in Germany in the late 1800s to herd and guard livestock. They are considered a “tending” breed – meaning they were used to keep the livestock in a designated grazing area and would constantly run the borders of that area to do so. In contrast, Border Collies for example, are herders, used to move the animals from one place to another. This does not mean, however, that the German Shepherd is not able to herd, many are very successful at that job as well.

A man by the name of Max von Stephanitz is credited for creating the standard for the breed, with the founding of the Society for the German Shepherd Dog in 1899 and the first dog to be registered within it, Horan von Grafrath. In 1919, 54 German Shepherds were registered with the UK Kennel Club. By 1926, the number had exploded to 8,000. The breed has continued to grow in popularity the world ever since then.

The breed in Australia, had a bit of a rocky start. First imported in 1923, by 1928 the government had imposed a ban on the importation of the German Shepherd Dog because they were believed to be dangerous. The ban was not lifted until 1973. However, this did not stop clubs from forming during this time, including the German Shepherd Dog Club of SA (1945) and the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia (1960). And by 1983, the German Shepherd Dog got a reprieve from the discriminatory status in South Australia, when the 1934 Alsatian Dogs Act was repealed. This act had prohibited ownership of the German Shepherd in many areas of the state.

Since then, the German Shepherd has continued to grow in popularity. In fact, in the 1990s it was the most popular dog in Australia, based on puppy registration numbers.

Today’s German Shepherd Dog is approximately 25-43 kg in size and 55-65 cm tall at the withers, with females being on the smaller of these scales. They can also have a shorter “stock coat” or a longer stock coat. The average lifespan is between 9-13years and some getting up to age 16.

Temperament

As one might guess, the German Shepherd is a brave, intelligent breed that has a willingness to learn and loves a job. While these traits make them a great choice as a working dog, it can cause trouble in a family scenario. They instinctively guard their owners, and can be over-protective.

Considered “aloof,” they can be reactive to strangers if not properly socialized. However, a well-bred German Shepherd Dog should not be fearful! Fear can turn into reactivity and even aggression. Meet the parents and siblings and do not get a puppy that show signs of fear. A properly bred and trained German Shepherd should be gentle with other animals and children.

Energy Level

Like most herding breeds, the German Shepherd Dog has a fairly high energy level and needs daily activity – both physical and mental – to keep him happy and healthy. At the least, your German Shepherd will need a long walk daily and a chance to use his brain. Best, is giving him a job to do – whether that’s obedience, agility, herding, nose work, or just tricks for fun. Having an energetic job to do that also employs his brain will help keep your German Shepherd from being destructive or running your fence line endlessly.

Space Needed

Being a larger dog bred for outdoor work, the German Shepherd Dog is happiest with a yard to run in, with the option of coming into to be with the family. Remember, as herding dogs, they were bred to work with humans. As such, they do not want to be left on their own. Your yard doesn’t have to be huge if you plan on taking your shepherd out for daily exercise.

Common Health Problems

A trend in show dogs has created a severely slopped back in a lot of German Shepherd’s today. Unfortunately, this slopped back increases their likelihood of back and leg issues, especially hip dysplasia. Working lines tend to have more of the straight back and are therefore a better choice if you want to avoid vet bills. Either way, be sure the breeder has tested all breeding stock for hip and elbow dysplasia, as it is hereditary.

Degenerative myelopathy – a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs – is also found in this breed. Again, German Shepherd Dog’s with severely sloped backs are going to be more prone to this disease as well. The breeder should also know if this hereditary disease is found in their breeding stock.

As a larger dog, they are also prone to bloat, so make sure your German Shepherd dog does not eat to rapidly. Also not feeding to close to exercise and limiting activity after eating can help prevent this deadly occurrence.

Training

The German Shepherd Dog is ranked just behind the Border Collie and the Poodle for intelligence, so if you are looking for a dog that can learn just about anything, this may be the dog for you. They are also eager learners, make them fun to work with and fairly easy to train.

No matter if your German Shepherd is just a family dog, or destined to be a champion herder, you will need to make sure they are properly socialized to avoid reactivity.

Feeding Recommendation

Our feeding recommendation is to feed your German Shepherd Dog Stay Loyal’s Large Breed Puppy until around 9-10 months of age, due to their size as an adult. Then, switch to the Adult Chicken, Lamb & Fish.

If you think the German Shepherd Dog is right for you, be sure to do your research and select a responsible breeder that breeds for health and temperament. Ask to see the parents and the puppies. It’s even better if you can see past litters grown up and always ask for references. Doing your research now will ensure you and your German Shepherd will have a long and happy life together.