Every dog changes with time and senior age brings a series of changes. Labradors are no exception.
Aging Labrador is facing health issues like arthritis, vision /hearing loss, dementia, heart problems, and kidney issues… Sudden behavioral changes are expected as well as sleeping habit modifications. Aging Labrador may struggle with obesity. Senior Labs may change the way they stand up, lie down, or step up the stairs. You may also note some changes associated with appetite, food preferences, and a lower level of excitement during mealtime.
What Happens When Labrador Gets Old?
What Age Is Considered Old for a Labrador?
Before we start speaking about changes in senior Labs, we have to define what age exactly is considered old for a Labrador, when is that time when you can expect to see a series of changes in your dog?
When Labradors turn 7 years they start to be considered seniors. It doesn’t mean that your Lab will start getting sick immediately, but at this age, you can start noticing some physical and mental changes in your pooch. However, your Lab may live a healthy and happy life for years, even though his physical appearance starts to change.
What happens to Labs When They Get Old?
The most common changes in Senior Labs are :
- Typical health problems for seniors like vision impairment, hearing loss, or incontinence
- Muscle stiffness and pain as symptoms of the initial stage of arthritis
- Overall slowing down, less energy
- It’s getting harder for Lab to get up after napping, he sleeps more, plays less
- The senior lab cannot manage long walks and runs anymore
- More frequent urination due to less bladder control
- More prone to obesity due to less exercise and slower metabolism
- Senior Labs may have problems with stairs or jump into the car
- Variety of health issues like kidney disease, heart problems, tumors/cancers
- Mental problems like senility and dementia, memory loss ( It is more challenging for your Lab to find his way around his environment)
- Physical changes like muscle tone loss, the coat can go gray, the calluses growth, especially on the elbows due to lying down, different warts, lumps, bumps, and other changes on the skin. It’s wise to check every change on the skin of your old canine friend.
- Paws crack and nails tend to grow more, so pay special attention to your Lab’s feet
- The immune system grows weaker so a senior Lab is more susceptible to infections diseases and autoimmune disorders
- Senior Labs may feel less thirsty which may easily lead to dehydration, so always make sure your canine companion drinks enough water
- Food preferences change, lower excitement during meal time due to smell and taste sense decrease, and nutrient requirements also change(fewer calories more fibers)
How Do I Know My Senior Lab is Suffering?
Since old age in Labradors is not a disease, it’s important to distinguish between normal behavior for seniors and abnormal behavior which could be the signal of pain in your Lab.
So what tells us that our senior Labrador is suffering?
- Lying down while eating or drinking
- Having urinary accidents
- Moving while peeing or pooping
- Having a hard time going upstairs
- Hesitation to take a treat
- Having a hard time turning his head to one side or the other
- Having trouble with sleeping, Labrador cannot get comfortable so he becomes restless
- Display of antisocial or aggressive behavior
- Being more vocal, barking, whining
- Heavy panting
- Excessive grooming
All these are clear signs that something is wrong with your senior Lab. Most probably is suffering from some pain or feels some kind of discomfort. Anyhow it would help if you took him to a vet for detailed analysis and examination.
How Do I Take Care of a Senior Labrador?
Since older Labradors are more prone to illnesses, infections, and age-related injuries, it is advisable to take your senior Lab to the vet every 6 months.
Senior Labs may experience vision impairment or ( and ) hearing loss which may affect their quality of life. Note that some problems with eyes and vision like cataracts might be treated so do consult the vet. Note that most of the Labradors are perfectly capable of adjusting well to blindness in the period of 6-8 weeks. If you have a blind Lab, don’t move the furniture around, and don’t change your dog’s routine.
Hearing loss poses a greater problem and does affect the quality of life. If you have a senior Lab that has a problem hearing you well, pay special attention during walks outside. Responding to recall commands might be a great challenge for a Lab that has a hearing problem. In that case, hand signals might help. But, the bad recall doesn’t have to be associated with hearing problems. Some older dogs simply become sloppy when it comes to good recall. So additional recall training could help.
Incontinence is also a pretty normal thing in older Labs, especially senior spayed females. Certain forms of incontinence can be treated so talk to your vet.
Apart from other problems and illnesses that affect older Labradors, you may notice a lot of lumps and bums on your Lab’s skin. Most of them will be fatty lumps which are harmless but you never one what will appear next. It’s advisable to check every new lump or bump.
Older Labs do require, like older people, a low-calorie diet but it is not that simple. You cannot just go to the store and pick up the food for older Labs just like that. First of all, think about your pooch’s lifestyle. Is he a working dog, or is he still very active? If the answer is yes, then keep the old food, and don’t change it. Sometimes that low-calorie food is just packed with fillers which are not good for your dog. Serving ordinary food in smaller portions to your senior Lab is the best way to go.
It is super important to keep your senior dog slim and don’t let him gain weight. Extra weight is not good for his health and puts additional pressure on his joints.
In order to keep your senior Lab happy at your home, rearrange a few things :
- Provide a thicker mattress or a bed specially designed for senior dogs ( it will give them a much better rest)
- Raise his feeder so he doesn’t have to bend down
- Provide a ramp if your dog is struggling with stairs or getting in the car
- Move your Lab sleeping area away from a draft ( older dogs have a problem with regulating their body temperature)
- Don’t forget that your senior Lab still needs some physical exercise although he might be unable to go on the long walks like he used to