Aging is an inevitable and still poorly understood process. In General, the aging process in animals can be reduced to two irreversible phenomena:
- suppression of organ functions;
- reducing the level of natural resistance or the ability to adapt to negative external influences
Despite the fact that aging is inevitable for each biological individual, animals of different species age at different rates. In addition, even in animals of the same species and age, the number of signs of aging varies greatly. The life span of an individual is largely determined by heredity, but it is influenced by many other factors, such as the environment and lifestyle.
What issues should be given special attention:
As a reproductive doctor, first I want to say about the problems in the sexual sphere in dogs older than 6 years.
- As for males, the most common diseases of the prostate and testes.
- Testicular tumors are observed in dogs, more often than in other domestic animals and are the second most common after skin tumors. Therefore, due to the prevalence of testicular neoplasia, a clinical examination of old animals should include a testes examination. In the absence of testicles in the scrotum in old non-castrated males, the possibility of such a disease should be considered, especially in the presence of concomitant diseases of the skin, digestive and urinary systems. It is important to determine whether there are testicles that have not descended into the scrotum, and to assess the probability of their neoplastic transformation. The only treatment is surgical removal of the affected testis. As a rule, neoplastic degeneration of one of the testes is accompanied by atrophy of the second, which leads to sterility of the animal.
- Prostate diseases are more often observed in adults and old animals, which is explained by hypertrophy of the organ under the influence of androgens. Most of the clinical manifestations of prostate diseases are non-specific (urination with blood, soreness, constipation, motor dysfunction), so initially these diseases are associated with other organs (the bladder, digestive tract, or musculoskeletal system).
The presence of these symptoms in non-castrated males older than 4-5 years is an indication for a thorough examination of the prostate gland.
- Violations of urination (hematuria), not necessarily associated with urination (blood is often observed in the male during rest, and not only during urination), urinary incontinence when filling the bladder, rare urination.
- Bowel disorders are not always observed, but sometimes they are the only clinical symptom of prostate diseases. Violations are explained by hypertrophy (enlargement) of the prostate gland in the pelvic region, which is manifested by constipation and a characteristic ribbon-like form of feces. The intensity of symptoms depends on the degree of hypertrophy and the location of the prostate . If there is an inflammatory process (as a result of infection or abscesses), the intestinal disorder can be accompanied by severe pain.
- Motor disorders: stiffness when walking, lameness on the hind legs, paresis and swelling of the limbs. Symptoms appear suddenly (with abscesses and acute prostatitis) or develop gradually (with hyperplasia, tumors), their appearance is due to local compression caused by an enlarged prostate or the presence of metastases.
- Systemic manifestations of a non-specific nature. Often, prostate diseases are accompanied by symptoms that are characteristic of systemic diseases (such as fever, soreness, prostration, anorexia, vomiting, and sepsis). Moreover, any of the listed systemic symptoms may be the only one. Therefore, in the presence of one or more of these clinical manifestations in an adult non-castrated male, the prostate gland should be carefully examined.
Castration is the most effective treatment for males who are not used in breeding work. In addition, prescribed a progestogen, antiandrogen drugs.
- Pyometra is a disease characterized by the accumulation of pus in the uterine cavity due to the growth of the endometrium and the formation of multiple cysts in it. It can be combined with ovarian cancer.
The disease is usually diagnosed 10…60 days after the manifestation of normal or abnormal estrus. Distinguish between open and closed form of pyometra. With an open form, sometimes there are attempts, scanty or abundant purulent discharge from the loop. When the form is closed, the cervix is closed, there is no discharge from the genital loop.
Bitches have a picture of the septic process: fever, loss of appetite, depression, signs of intoxication. A very specific symptom for acute pyometra is increased thirst. The main method of treatment for bitches that are no longer knitted with age is ovariohysterectomy (sterilization).
For young bitches that breeders plan to use in breeding, modern veterinary medicine has developed drugs and treatment regimens for this pathology.
In unsterilized bitches, breast tumors are also more common with age.
Breast tumors account for more than 50% of all tumors found in bitches. Approximately half of breast tumors are malignancies, and half of these latter metastasize by the time they are detected. In males, such tumors are rare and account for about 1 % of all existing neoplasms.
According to available data, the risk of developing neoplasia is directly related to the age at which the animal was subjected to ovariohysterectomy. Sterilization performed before the first estrus (estrus) reduces the risk of breast cancer by up to 0.05 % .
However, the positive preventive effect of sterilization partially decreases as the female grows older, so ovariohysterectomy performed at the age of 2.5 years and later no longer has an effect on the development of breast tumors; these data indicate the advantages of early sterilization in the prevention of this disease.
The main method of treatment of neoplasia of the mammary glands in females remains surgical intervention. In combination with chemotherapy, it allows you to achieve a cure. Drugs that block the effects of estrogen are still under study, and their effectiveness is controversial. Further research is needed to identify the role of sex hormones in the development of mammary gland tumors in dogs.
Given the above, it is better to sterilize bitches that are not planned for breeding, and to castrate males that have finished their reproductive career.
There are, of course, undesirable complications after sterilization of bitches, such as urinary incontinence and the risk of obesity. As for gaining excess weight, as mentioned, much depends on the owner of the bitch, and for the treatment of urinary incontinence in sterilized bitches, veterinary drugs have been developed, as well as there are analogues in humane medicine.
Diseases of the oral cavity
Oral disease is common in aging dogs. In addition to local manifestations (pain and discomfort) they can lead to the development of systemic diseases. In the presence of severe inflammatory diseases (for example, chronic gingivostomatitis) due to lack of appetite, dehydration and nutritional deficiencies may develop.
It was found that there is a clear link between periodontal disease and pathological changes in the renal tissue in the myocardium and liver. Timely detection and treatment of oral diseases is necessary to maintain the overall health of aging dogs.
An aging animal that lives in good home conditions usually requires less dental intervention than animals without care. When General anesthesia is contraindicated for a dog, chemical methods are used to remove dental deposits, and painkillers are prescribed to the animal.
Risk of obesity
The great desire to extend the life of small Pets has led researchers to pay special attention to the mechanisms of aging in dogs and their impact on the nutritional needs of aging animals. The age at which dogs should be considered aging is still under discussion.
But it is generally believed that old age occurs when an animal reaches the last third of the average life expectancy of representatives of this type of breed. In dogs of different breeds, the average life expectancy varies greatly, and dogs of large breeds live less than dogs of medium and small breeds.
Understanding the nutritional needs of aging animals is a very relevant and practically significant task for dog owners.
Like humans, dogs have a reduced energy requirement as they age. Typically, an aging dog requires 20% less energy than an adult animal. The decrease in energy requirements in aging dogs is associated with a decrease in their physical activity and an age-related decrease in the ratio of non-fat/fat tissues in the body.
Because of the discrepancy between the caloric content of food and the energy needs of the body, old animals have a high risk of developing obesity. In this regard, veterinarians recommend reducing the caloric content of the diet consumed by aging Pets by an average of 20%.
In addition to these pathologies, with age, dogs may have impaired vision, hearing, reduced immunity and the animal becomes more susceptible to bacterial, viral and fungal diseases. The dog’s bones become more fragile and the ligamentous apparatus less elastic, the muscles weaken. In this regard, the tendency to injury (fractures, dislocations, sprains) increases sharply. Chronic diseases of the cardiovascular, digestive and urinary systems develop.
From all of the above, it should be concluded that the health of a pet in old age should be paid more attention. This is why it is so important to have a routine check-up with a veterinarian at least once every six months.