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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've never had a dog grow old on me before so I'm having trouble distinguishing what is normal aging behaviour and what might be and indication of something wrong.

Pepper has always been an extremely high-energy dog. She's always loved people and gets SO excited around new people! We still have to remind her at times that she can't jump up. She just has energy that doesn't stop.


She'll be turning 6 on November 1st and over the past 7-8 months I have noticed changes in her.

1. She has calmed down considerably at home. She is more relaxed, slower to walk around, sleeps more, etc. However, if we take her out or anyone comes over she acts like she's a year old again. I'm happy that she's slowed down at home at least.

2. She's slow on walks. She used to be the one out front, pulling to get farther ahead. Now she's loose leash walking on her own, and if it's a long walk or it's hot out, she's actually lingering behind.

3. When we take her to the beach she used to run up and down the beach as far as she could for as long as we would allow her. She would also swim like crazy (around in large circles). She still loves to swim, but when we get to the beach she doesn't really run at all. She'll walk around sniffing things, but she doesn't really run. She has become obsessed with digging in the sand too. I don't know what that's all about (mental stimulation I think).

4. Sometimes when one of us gets home from work, she won't even get up off the couch to greet us at the door.

5. She used to be completely food obsessed and would eat anything, but just within the last year she's become more picky. She will now turn her nose up at most fruit and some vegetables (ones she used to eat). If she does take it, she just spits it out right away.

Medically there have only been 2 concerns. She has a lump on her belly that the vet says is just fatty tissue and nothing to worry about. She has limped a couple of times and her left back leg seems stiff sometimes when she gets up. This is a new development that I plan to ask the vet about at our next appointment. I've been giving her a glucosamine supplement in the mean time.

I suspect she's just getting older and that none of this is concerning, but sometimes I wonder.



So my questions to you - at what age did your dog start slowing down and what were the signs you noticed?
 

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I think I would get her checked out by the vet. For a dog to not come to the door when you get home does not seem normal to me. And the fact that her eating habits have changed would concern me too. My mom's little malti/poo is 5 years old. And there is no way she would ever remain on the couch when someone walked into the house. Best of luck getting to the bottom of it.
 

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My last dog lived to 14 but started to slow down around 7/8. It was very gradual. He slept more, a little less hyper, and yeah he even got more picky about his food. He was also about 7 when we started to notice his hearing wasn't as sharp as it used to be (but he didn't go completely and utterly deaf until he was about 12). His hearing was the reason he stopped greeting us at the door, he simply couldn't hear us. But like I said, it was a slow shift. It took awhile to really look at him and think "wow, you're an old man now!". Probably around 10/11 we started noticing his cranky joints (slower to sit down, slower on walks, etc). Definitely talk to the vet. It kinda sounds like a lot of that could be a mobility issue - no running, lagging on walks, not getting off the couch (or hearing), etc. It definitely didn't happen all at once and the change was very subtle.
 

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I would definitely have the sudden limp checked out. I've been wondering about this question for years as Soro's gotten older. I think it strongly depends on the individual dog. But I have always been on the lookout for any behavior change through aging. For Sor, I noticed him start really aging at around 10 years old.

At 8 years old Sor could easily do 8 mile cross country ski trips multiple times a week with no issues. We were hiking double digits regularly.

At 10 I could still do some light disc, flirtpole, springpole, etc. But I could tell he was getting tired more quickly, and was getting just a little more sloppy.

At 11 yrs old he did a 20+ mile backpacking trip, though I made him carry an empty pack. He did it without any issues, but you could tell it was much harder for him by how quick he was to nap when we stopped hiking for the day. Still, every morning he would play with Brae before doing many more miles.

At 12+ years old now, I am noticing major changes. And really, this year has been the hardest year for him. We are dealing with a lameness issue and Sor can't hike anymore. Now, I've never seen him quit on the trail in the 12 years I've had him. Even today, I am sure if we hike he will come along. He still goes down banks that are too steep for his body to handle. But he is really sore afterwards, and he plods along (I am sure in his mind he still thinks he's flying), and the limp is there. Honestly, I haven't even done a neighborhood walk with him in weeks because of the dip in his step. His mind is still 100%. The crinkle of a chip bag, and he's there. He still knows all his tricks, has great vision, and won't put up with tomfoolery from Brae. But they are flat out not allowed to play anymore. Sor will even play bow to Brae every now and then, but I don't let them play. Brae's just too strong for him and I know Sor will literally get knocked down.

Somewhere around 10 yrs old I noticed Sor's appetite wane. I posted about it, where he wouldn't eat his kibble. I found out it was because he was 3ish pounds heavier than he needed to be. He was 77 or something. He did not look fat at all. But once I had him lose that weight, he was ravenous again. But by and large, Soro is still the same dog. He is goofy, engaging, and ravenous for food. This is why I would recommend further vet analysis for Pepper. Yes, dogs age and slow down. But all of those changes combined seems a little strange to me. When a dog's spirit is down, I figure there must be an internal reason.
 

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I agree with the others. With the exception of truly giant breed individuals, six seems young for most dogs to be really slowing down. I follow a vet's blog, and she often emphasizes that old age, in itself, is not a disease. There's diseases associated with old age - like arthritis - but many do have treatments that will improve and prolong quality of life, so it's always worth checking out why an older dog's behavior is changing.

The limping, especially, should be looked into, but if she were mine I'd likely also be doing a full blood work-up, thyroid panel included. I was noting that Sam seemed quiet lately a few weeks ago, and he was getting laggy on his runs with my wife. Turns out, he had a (minor) back injury. We unfortunately didn't realize it was significant until he had a major pain episode, but the little symptoms were there for a couple weeks before that. He's just turned six a couple months ago (though, tbf, he is a small, long-lived breed, but still).
 

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I agree with DaySleepers regarding "old age is not a disease..."

I think it's such a balance with dogs (and I'm sure with people and ourselves). I never made decisions based on a number. Like 'oh, he's 7 now and technically a senior, better change his diet and slow him down...' I actually feel like that's what makes some dogs start losing muscle tone and mental acuity. I keep on doing what I think the dog wants to do. When he's ready to slow down, I tone it down. But the balance is not pushing until a dog breaks, either.

Regardless, I hope you figure out what's going on with Pepper. And I hope she has many happy years ahead :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the input! It sounds like for when they show signs of aging it really depends on the dog? It could just be aging, but yeah I definitely want to get the limp/stiffness checked out. I've made an appointment with our vet for September 4th.

I actually feel like that's what makes some dogs start losing muscle tone and mental acuity. I keep on doing what I think the dog wants to do. When he's ready to slow down, I tone it down.
You know this could be part of it too. She stays home by herself 4 days a week and I think she is bored. My husband used to take her for a walk when he got home from work, but he's been having some knee issues and hasn't been taking her out regularly. Plus it's been so hot out. He's hoping to start walking her again this week. Actually come to think of it, Pepper used to be able to go with him to work a couple of times a week too, but that hasn't been possible for about 6 or 7 months either, and probably won't be again.

As far as her not greeting us at the door, it's not all the time. I'd say she doesn't get up maybe only 20% of the time. I don't think it's her hearing though. She starts to get up, sees it's just one of us, then just stays in that sort of half sit and just rests her head back down on the arm of the couch. Once we're fully inside she'll slowly get up and come over.

The limp happened again on Sunday. On Saturday we went out on the boat and the dogs got to run around a bit on the beach. Twice Pepper hooked her "bad" leg while trying to get out of the boat (just going too fast and slipped). Then near the end of the day she refused to jump up into the boat. My husband had to try to lift her in, which was awkward and uncomfortable for both of them. After a long sleep in the evening, when I got her up to go outside before bed she was limping again. She's not doing it anymore though, it doesn't last more than a day.

My suspicion is arthritis. Often it seems like once she starts moving the stiffness gets better. Hopefully the vet can give us a definitive answer.
 

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Do let us know! I hope you get to the bottom of this and that Pepper feels better soon.
 

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You could always hire a dog walker for her on the days you're unable to if you are worried about her not getting enough exercise. Another idea would be taking her to a dog park. This is assuming that her lack of enthusiasm is caused by being bored like that. Let us know what happens, I hope Pepper recovers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
You could always hire a dog walker for her on the days you're unable to if you are worried about her not getting enough exercise. Another idea would be taking her to a dog park.
She does go to daycare every Wednesday just to break up the week. We don't do dog parks - we had a bad experience at one and now I'm to worried/paranoid to take her back.
 

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I think a dog will do OK with a 30 min. walk, twice a day. Most dogs begin to mellow somewhere between 1 and 3yo. But, I think that 6yo is young for being 'old' ... however the twinges of arthritis are a distinct possibility. I believe that a little more regular and gentle exercise will help work out those kinks ... The vet may prescribe some meds to reduce pain and inflammation ... And you might ask about Omega-3 fish oil as well as Cosequin DS Plus MSM to help with joint issues ... These supplements may take 4 -6 weeks before they start to help.
 

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Would your husband be willing to do some kind of low-impact training with her? Nosework comes to mind, even if it's just hiding treats for her to hunt out every day. I'm super sympathetic to health issues getting in the way of exercising the dog, and this kind of enrichment really helps keep boredom at bay and stimulate Sam's mind when I'm having a rough time of it. The physical stuff should absolutely be followed up on too, but brain work/sensory stimulation may do a lot to keep her spirits up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I've decided to start getting up earlier on Tuesdays so I can take the dogs for a walk before work. Normally the dogs will play a bit in the mornings with each other, but a structured walk will be good for both of them. My husband has also just started taking her again for a walk after work so we'll see if her mentality changes at all.

Would your husband be willing to do some kind of low-impact training with her? Nosework comes to mind, even if it's just hiding treats for her to hunt out every day. I'm super sympathetic to health issues getting in the way of exercising the dog, and this kind of enrichment really helps keep boredom at bay and stimulate Sam's mind when I'm having a rough time of it. The physical stuff should absolutely be followed up on too, but brain work/sensory stimulation may do a lot to keep her spirits up.
Hmm, I like the idea of hiding treats for her during the day. But I worry about competition between the dogs if she misses one and Kane finds it, or they both try to find it. Food can be a spark for spats between the two. I used to feed her kibble in a Kong Wobbler and she LOVED that, but it became a problem once we got Kane. She is also a food thief and a counter-surfer so I don't want to encourage her, haha! I am open to suggestions on how we could maybe work around this though? I just don't want to push it with them since we're down to having fights rarely these days.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
We had Pepper's vet appointment on Tuesday. While the vet couldn't really FEEL anything wrong with her leg, he had her walk, trot, and go slowly up stairs and you could see her favouring her back, left leg. It was particularly obvious on the steps - she started to put her left leg down to go up the step, then hesitated, lifted it, then tried again. Then changed her mind and used her right leg instead.

The vet suspects a CCL tear, but recommended getting an x-ray, which we did yesterday. Now we're just waiting for the results. He's off work for a few days so we likely won't hear back until next week.
 

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There is also a pull test that Vets do to see if there is any pain within the normal range of motion. It is a gentle test, and most dogs don't respond unless there is pain, while a twinge of something like arthritis may result in the dog pulling back.

In addition, a dog's vision can start to decline (time for bifocals ;-) ) before 6 yo, and that can add to mellowing behaviors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well our vet couldn't find anything wrong on Pepper's x-rays - CCL/ACL tear, no tumor, no infections. He thinks she must have just had a soft tissue injury like a pulled muscle or something. So that's good news! He did notice some very mild hip dysplasia on both sides, but didn't think it was related.

He did offer a round of metacam if we wanted it, but I think we'll leave it. So we'll re-assess her in a few months, unless something changes before then. Her other "symptoms" must be just from age/boredom. We'll carry on with trying to get her out on more walks during the week, etc.
 
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