Aging dogs have dog health problems and diseases unknown to younger dogs. As your dog gets older, he may develop physical and mental limitations, just like an older person.
When young, your Bichon Frise dog aged very quickly through her baby and teenage years. Then, when she was about 2 years old, things slowed down as she entered her adult years.
Aging speeds up again, when a Bichon enters the final third of her life, around 11 years old.
This is a bitter sweet time in your dog’s life. You start to see the physical and mental signs of aging. Signs of aging remind us that the end is near for our dogs.
Fortunately, your dog doesn’t know this. She simply accepts everything that life brings her and moves on. She doesn’t feel sadness at growing old and nearing the end of life, because she doesn’t have a clue about what is happening.
So it is important that you keep a positive and upbeat attitude. Dogs do pick up on your emotions.
Make a point of including your dog in family outings and walks, as long as she is able to go. And remember to show your old dog affection and love. We all respond to that.
In this article, I’ll discuss aging and its effects on your Bichon Frise. You’ll see these topics below:
- Signs that Your Dog is Aging
- What is Happening to Your Dog?
- Sore Muscles and Stiff Joints
- Aging Dogs Lose their Senses
- My Dog is Peeing on the Floor!
- Could My Dog be Senile?
- Keep Your Aging Dog Young and Active
Signs that Your Dog is Aging
Dogs age faster than we do. As your Bichon Frise gets older, you may notice some graying on her face and muzzle. She will probably move slower and she may have trouble getting up and down.
In addition, your dog may need your help to climb onto the sofa or get into your car.
You may find that your dog does not respond when you speak to her. In fact, she may not be ignoring you or showing an attitude. She may be unable to hear you or she may be developing dementia.
As he ages, your senior dog’s brain will actually shrink, and messages will travel more slowly through his nervous system. This means that he will process what you say to him more slowly, and he will take more time to react. He needs to figure out what you are asking him to do.
As your Bichon Frise gets older, it may become more difficult to tell if she is misbehaving or if she is having medical problems. Or a combination of the two!
What is Happening to Your Dog?
Aging dogs have a number of things happening to them, all at once. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect.
- Metabolism – There is a gradual decline in the rate of metabolism in your dog’s body. Slower metabolism can lead to sluggishness, more time asleep, intolerance to changes in temperature (hot or cold) and tiring easily.
- Immune system – becomes weaker with age.
- Food requirements – Your dog will need fewer calories and may need less food. Consider changing to a dog food diet with lower fat content, for seniors.
- Weight gain – especially if a dog’s diet is not adjusted to his age. Lower activity levels also contribute to weight gain. A diet designed for a senior dog will help your dog stay healthy and active.
- Temperature control – Your dog’s skin will become less elastic and blood vessels lose their ability to react to changing temperatures. Depending on the weather or air temperature and humidity, your old dog may need a sweater or a place to get into the shade.
- Bones and muscles – Senior dogs lose muscle mass, partly due to being more sedentary. Bones become thinner and they break more easily.
- Skin and hair – Your dog’s hair will get thinner and his skin will be more susceptible to infections. Skin can be either dry and flaky or very oily and greasy.
- Teeth and gums – Periodontal disease is common in older dogs and sometimes dogs lose teeth because of diseased gums. Brushing your dog’s teeth can help prevent this problem.
- Pain – Because senior dogs develop new diseases and disorders, they also have aches and pains. Your dog may need a little help with handling pain or pain relief.
Changes in Behavior
- Urinary incontinence – Unfortunately many dogs do lose control of their pee. Some for physical reasons and others because they simply forget that they need to go outside to pee.
- Insecurity – Even though your dog can’t tell you what’s going on with her, she feels it. Your sweet little dog may become more clingy or insecure. She may want to be held more or she may tag along with you, when your move from room to room. Your dog may even become very anxious when you need to leave her behind.
In addition to these common signs of aging, there are a number of senior dog health issues that are medical, just like you see in older people.
Sore Muscles and Stiff Joints
Most dogs in their golden years will have some aches and pains. Just like your pain and stiffness, after a busy and active weekend. This is due to mild osteoarthritis.
Some dogs have more severe cases of arthritis and weaker muscles as they age. If your Bichon Frise dog is experiencing a lot of pain and weakness, she will need help with some of her activities. This is especially true if your dog has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Warmth helps relieve the pain of arthritis. You can apply heat to especially sore joints and muscles. A little heat can feel pretty nice on those old stiff bones. A pet bed warmer is like having a heating pad in bed with you. Your arthritic dog will appreciate the special treatment and pampering.
Fortunately, pet parents can buy some great products that help keep your old dog with arthritis comfortable.
For example, if you know that your dog has a problem with stiffness, an orthopedic bed may help. An orthopedic dog bed is designed to support aging dogs’ old bones and make them more comfortable.
If your dog is having trouble getting onto the sofa or bed, a small ramp might help. Jumping on and off high places can seriously damage an older dog’s hip or leg joints. For a dog with joint issues, steps do not work as well as a ramp.
Aging Dogs Lose Their Senses
Old dogs also sometimes become deaf or hard of hearing and lose some or all of their vision. If your dog seems to be ignoring things she used to see (like squirrels, bunnies or crows), she may be losing her sight. To help her, you may need to do a few things differently and you may need to purchase some simple aids to help her adjust.
Even your Bichon Frise dog’s wonderful sense of smell may fade. If this happens, your dog will not be as responsive to you or to events around her. This is another sensory loss that usually happens slowly over time, so it may take you a while to catch on to what is happening!
Warming your dog’s food before meals will increase the aroma for him, making food more interesting for a dog who is losing its sense of smell.
Of course we all know a person that has lost some of their hearing. It could even be you. With dogs, it’s not much different. At first, your dog may follow a command, looking like he’s mixed up. Eventually, he will look like he is just ignoring you or choosing not to obey. If your dog is not totally deaf, speaking louder can help him hear you.
My Dog is Peeing on the Floor!
Perhaps the most frustrating of all, aging dogs often lose control of their urine, leaving telltale little puddles around the house. This is especially true for spayed females, but neutered males can lose control, as well.
Even though this is quite upsetting, don’t punish your dog. She is not wetting on your floors and carpets or in her bed, on purpose.
Could My Dog be Senile?
Dog dementia is probably the trickiest condition to diagnose. That’s because the symptoms mimic so many other conditions, like deafness, vision loss or even arthritis. And often we misinterpret our dog’s slow response, believing that our sweet little Bichon is choosing to behave badly and not obey our commands.
If your dog has dementia, she is confused and disoriented. Dogs actually can become forgetful. Aging dogs sometimes forget their training, just as older people can become forgetful and forget their manners.
Your little Bichon Frise may have forgotten all those obedience lessons and commands that you worked so hard on!
Sadly a dog with dementia can even forget her own name and who her people family members are.
Patience is required here. Remember that your little Bichon is probably not disobeying or ignoring you on purpose.
A Little Extra TLC
Senior Dog Food Needs
Aging dogs need a little more attention than they did as young dogs. Your dog’s intestines are not as efficient at absorbing nutrients. And his kidneys and liver are not working as well at filtering out toxins and waste.
Your dog may now need a special dog food for seniors. But, make no mistake about this, she will still enjoy getting treats! However, if she is having a tough time eating hard treats, consider getting her some soft ones.
Grooming for Senior Dogs
Old dogs don’t groom themselves like they did in their younger years. Because your old dog is pretty tender in places, you’ll need to be more gentle when you groom him. Use a soft brush and remember that his skin is now thinner and it can be easily broken.
Continue to brush your senior dog’s teeth, even though he may have lost some. Pay particular attention to his gums, as a simple gum infection can get into his bloodstream and make him really sick!
Your senior dog’s eyes may become a cloudy blue-gray. To prevent infection, gently wipe away any mucus with a damp cotton ball. Also make sure that you wipe the skin around his eyes to keep it clean. Caked on mucus around the eyes can irritate or hurt your dog’s eyes.
Check your dog’s ears frequently and clean them to prevent wax build-up. Too much wax will encourage ear infections, the leading cause of odor in dogs (both young and old).
Keep Your Aging Dog Young and Active
We all want to keep our dogs as youthful and active as possible. The symptoms of aging take us closer to the end, when we will have to say goodbye.
Older dogs still need affection, play and exercise. While you may need to slow down for your older Bichon Frise, make sure you still include him in fun activities.
Going for walks will help to keep your dog healthy. You will have to slow down a bit for him, but the activity will help him move better and keep his internal organs healthier. And taking walks is mentally stimulating for your dog, as well.
As time goes on, you’ll probably have to provide a few things to keep your dog comfortable. And you may have to make adaptations to your schedule and your home!
But, in the end, that’s a small sacrifice to pay for keeping your dog happy and with you longer.