Rheumatism usually shows up when the dog reaches 10 or 11 years of age. Stiff joints, difficult movement and irritability are the most common symptoms. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to help relieve rheumatism. You can help the old dog by giving him a warm and dry place to live and sleep. Keep him out of drafts and dampness.
Old dogs frequently suffer from chronic otitis or inflammation of the external, internal and middle ear. The condition can be very painful and will make the dog very irritable. He may refuse to eat. Otitis is more often seen in those dogs with long or pendulous ears, such as the Dachshund, Cocker Spaniel and Setter. Upon close examination, the ear will be inflamed and there may be a discharge. Don't try to treat this condition, take the old dog to the veterinarian. Surgery is very often necessary.
Otitis may lead to deafness. But deafness is caused by other factors, such as disease and injury. If—after you've had any ear infections or injuries taken care of—the old dog has difficulty in hearing, you can contribute the loss of hearing to advancing old age. There isn't much can be done for senile deafness. In rare cases, deaf dogs have been provided with hearing aids. But these are costly and not really necessary.
Once you know the old dog is deaf, you'll have to make some adjustments in the daily routine. Since he can't hear, the old dog will be easily surprised when napping or lying down. Move quietly and try not to startle him. Caution children and strangers about the dog being deaf. He may snap or bite when startled. Also, take care that he doesn't get out onto the street where his impaired hearing will expose him to danger.
Blindness is common in the very old dog. Cataracts are the main cause of blindness. They usually follow a chronic course. Cataracts may be seen in the form of cloudy spots resembling the solid white of an egg, and are visible through the pupil or hole in the center of the eyeball. Cataracts can be removed by surgery and a major portion of sight restored.
It may take you some time to catch on to the fact that your old dog is blind. A blind dog can move about amazingly well, particularly in familiar surroundings. He can move without bumping into chairs or tables because he relies on his scent. Most dogs retain a good sense of scent until the end. Outdoors, however, the blind dog gets into trouble. Never let him out of the yard alone. Keep him on the leash when you walk him.
Some degree of chronic nephritis or inflammation of the kidney is present in most old dogs. Nephritis may range from the non-uremic type, in which the old dog drinks a lot of water and frequently urinates, to the more dangerous uremic type. Both types of nephritis require veterinary attention. The dog with chronic nephritis will probably have to be on a special diet for the rest of his life.
Prostatitis, pyometra and ascites—ailments o£ the old dog —are discussed in Chapter 13. While these conditions are usually found in old dogs, they may be present as symptoms of disease in younger dogs.
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