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Older Dog FAQ Part 4

Older Dog Frequently Asked Questions - Part 4

How old should a bitch be when weaning her last litter? In general, a female should not be more than five years old when weaning her last litter, nor younger than the second heat, which means between one and two years old. She should also be bred only every other heat, which means a total of three or four litters throughout a female's lifetime.

How old should a male dog be before he should be prevented from copulating? Dogs generally have a self-checking mechanism, which means that they would not ordinarily pursue sex beyond their abilities and fortitude. If they did attempt copulation beyond their physical stamina, they would simply pass out. As dogs get older, they have a lower sperm count, so for selective breeding purposes you are better off using a younger dog with not only fine conformation but stable temperament as well.

Do female dogs experience a change of life? Not that we are aware of. Female dogs can remain fertile until they die. We know of a cocker spaniel who had puppies at the age of fourteen. For the most part females simply stop coming into heat, or come into heat less often, without any menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, etc.

What is the oldest a dog can live? We have heard of dogs living to eighteen years and more. In fact, dogs should live to over twenty years, but don't. In general, smaller breeds live longer than larger breeds.

How does a dog's hearing or sight change as he gets older? It generally gets worse. Barring any medical problems, it is not uncommon to see normal longevity of nine to fifteen years in a dog that has become deaf. The older dog will lose his hearing gradually, so that his owner is often not aware of it until the dog is deaf or almost deaf. Dogs very rarely become blind, but many will experience a clouding of the lens as they get older. A dog's sight is comprised of rods but no cones, so they don't see color - only shades of black, white, and gray.

Do older dogs tend to get fat? Dogs in general tend to be overfed. They are being killed with kindness through frequent snacking. However, older dogs, like people, will tend to loose muscle tone. Overfeeding and lack of exercise will cause any age dog to become overweight.

How common is the problem of gastric torsion? It seems to occur primarily in big dogs. The condition usually is precipitated by a heavy, fatty meal, eaten hastily, followed closely 'by a lot of water then by exercise. The stomach is contracting, trying to digest food and building up fermentation momentum until, in the big chested dog, the stomach literally flips over, twists, and closes off the openings at both ends. It can be remedied only by immediate surgery to unflip the stomach and sew it to the stomach wall if necessary. If not caught in time, the dog goes into shock and dies.

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