Did you know that a dog’s biological age is seven to eight times older than their chronological age? Larger dog breeds age faster than smaller dog breeds. Greyhounds particularly age fast due to their body size, poor sanitation, and nutrition from their early years on the track and overexertion of their bodies.
Some of the most common things to watch out for as your greyhound ages are arthritis, osteosarcoma, and organ failure. If your greyhound is a former racer, the cartilage between the bones may be destroyed due to overexertion leading to these bones rubbing against one another. This friction leads to pain and inflammation. As Roxy, our greyhound grew older, I acquired first-hand experience handling such problems and finding the best way to manage them.
In this piece, I share with you all the lessons and tips I amassed from our time caring for Roxy, our old hound.
My greyhound is aging, please help!
Change is a normal element of the aging process. Aging is gradual, and you may not even notice the changes as you see your dog daily. Not all greyhounds experience every possible age-related shift. A dog’s aging journey is dependent on their health, environment, and heritage.
13 things to watch out for as your Greyhound grows older
As I watched and took care of Roxy, I learned some of the important things to watch out for. If in doubt whether your greyhound is a senior, here are telltale signs that you should look out for:
Change in sleep patterns
You will notice your hound sleeping more during the day, less at night. Your hound may also wander around instead of sleeping at night.
Change in body shape and loss of muscle tone
Due to reduced physical activity, your hound may start gaining weight. Extra weight on hounds is not healthy since they genetically a lean dog breed. However, it is also possible for your old hound to lose weight due to poor eating habits. Their body weight may constantly fluctuate.
Reluctance to exercise
With age, your greyhound will naturally become less energetic and active. Arthritis, weight gain, and joint pain will inhibit your hound’s ability to move around properly.
Older hounds tend to forget their housetraining and have ‘accidents’ more often indoors. They stop caring for attention and being petted. Old dogs prefer to spend more time napping or by themselves.
Change in appetite and thirst
Your hound’s appetite will reduce over time due to the diminished sense of smell and taste as they age.
Loss of muscle
As your greyhound’s activity levels drop, they will show noticeable muscle wastage. You will also notice areas around the neck and body where muscle tone initially was, turn a tad flabbier.
Your hound may also visit the toilet more often due to weak bladder muscles. Your hound will also not enjoy sleeping on hard floors as there is now less muscle cushioning its joints.
Impaired resistance to extreme temperatures.
Greyhounds are sensitive to the cold and heat in their younger years. As they age, they tend to lose this unique sensitivity.
Canine Cognitive dysfunction
This problem manifests as confusion, disorientation, personality change, and memory loss. It is identical to Alzheimer’s disease in older people. With age, beta-amyloid accumulates in the brain, becomes waxy, and clogs the brain. The plaque that builds up obstructs signals form the brain leading to cognitive impairment.
Your dog shouldn’t have bad breath. However, as your hound age’s, bad breath becomes common due to gum disease and tartar build-up.
Joint pain is prevalent in older hounds. Its effects vary from mild stiffness to excruciating pain that keeps him from doing many things that he could easily do before.
Unexplainable lumps and bumps
During grooming, you may notice some fatty lipomas, but as your hound ages, these lumps become more common. They should always be checked out to keep track of any malignant tumors.
Thinning of coat
Your hound’s coat will become unusually thinner than before, considering greyhounds have thin coats.
Graying around the muzzle
Graying around the muzzle is one of the most obvious signs that your greyhound is officially a senior hound.
Greyhound health issues as they grow older
Other changes in your old greyhound develop as symptoms of diseases, so it is essential to have your hound checked by a veterinarian regularly. Here are some of the leading health issues that inflict greyhounds as they grow older:
Arthritis is a prevalent problem in greyhounds. It is induced by the breakdown of cartilage between joints used as cushioning. When the cartilage is destroyed, bones tend to rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation. The destruction of cartilage can be due to normal weight bearing on it, joints’ malformations caused by poor breeding, and joints’ injury. Greyhounds are at a higher risk of acquiring arthritis due to poor breeding and racing injuries.
Symptoms of arthritis include difficulty standing up, stiffness when walking, reluctance to climb stairs, jump, and crying out during movement.
- Keep your dog at the right body weight for his age as excess fat places stress on their joints.
- Senior greyhounds should be the right amount of quality pet food as advised by your vet. They should not be fed table leftovers or high-calorie treats.
- Regular controlled exercise such as short walks for about 20 minutes is important to help maintain ideal body weight, prevent stiffness and lubricate joints.
- Medication to help alleviate the pain that arthritis inflicts on your pet. Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate supplements help reduce the severity of the disease. The supplements are readily available in pet stores and vet clinics. It helps repair and restore the damaged cartilage between joints and doesn’t need a prescription.
- Other prescriptions, such as Deramaxx and Rimadyl, need a vet’s prescription. They also help in reducing joint pain and inflammation.
Osteosarcoma is a prevalent form of bone cancer, with the cause still unknown. Greyhounds are highly prone to this type of cancer that affects their legs, especially in their front limbs. If not diagnosed early, it can extend to other parts of the body, making the probability of survival low. When diagnosed early, aggressive treatment is crucial to avoid the spread and pain. The affected limb is amputated to remove the source of cancer and the painful area. However, this procedure is not ideal for all pets, and the decision is between you and the vet.
The most viable treatment for osteosarcoma is amputation and/or chemotherapy. Amputated dogs who have undergone the procedure continue to live up to 18 months. Carboplatin or doxorubicin are used for four or five treatments starting from the day the suture is removed. Your vet will keep track of your dog’s chemistry profile and complete blood count before every thoracic radiograph and chemotherapy treatment every three months.
Bloating may seem like a minor condition, after all, haven’t we all felt bloated after a rather large meal. But in dogs, bloating is fatal and could even cause death. Greyhounds, unlike other dog breeds, are more prone to bloating. Your dog’s stomach isn’t designed to stay stable when full if your dog is running about.
- Call your vet immediately when you notice your dog is bloated.
- Don’t feed your greyhound immediately after a play session. Ensure they rest for at least half an hour before feeding them.
- After feeding your dog, ensure they rest for about an hour before allowing them to play or exercise.
- Provide your hound with small quantities of water regularly than one large quantity at once.
- Water should be consumed an hour before and after every meal.
Senior greyhounds can experience organ failure for organs such as the kidney, heart, and liver. Commons symptoms of heart disease include weakness, difficulty breathing, coughing, or lethargy. Some greyhounds are born with a heart murmur, which can eventually lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs. A heart murmur is an abnormal flow of blood to the heart.
Liver and kidney failure can exhibit symptoms such as poor appetite, vomiting, weight loss, increased urinating, or jaundice.
There are a variety of heart medications and low sodium diets to help treat and prevent heart disease. An easy way to keep heart disease at bay is to test your hound annually and keep them on heart worm prevention medication monthly.
When detected early, the diseases can be managed with medication and special diets.
80% of greyhounds suffer from dental issues from the age of two. Dental diseases start with the build-up of tartar and plaque on teeth then progresses to infect the gums and roots. If not treated, your dog may lose their teeth and put their kidney, liver, and heart at risk. Poor dental hygiene may reduce your greyhound’s life span by up to three years.
Symptoms of dental diseases include swollen gums, bad breath, crust near the gum, and discomfort when gums are touched.
- Brush your greyhound’s teeth daily.
- Inspect your dog’s mouth for tartar builds up monthly.
- Take your greyhound in for professional cleaning and polishing at least once a year.
- Pannus is a visual disorder that affects a greyhound’s eyes. It eventually leads to blindness if not treated. It doesn’t cause any discharge or pain and can be hard to see. It presents as brown pigmentation on the surface of the eye. At closer inspection, you may notice small blood vessels growing on to the surface of the eye. Pannus is an autoimmune disease with a genetic predisposition. Ultra-violet rays are also thought to trigger a reaction or make the condition worse.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease that causes loss of vision due to retina degeneration. It gradually causes blindness. In many cases, the rod cells degenerate first, affecting night vision first before daytime vision.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy has no effective treatment available.
- Pannus can’t be eliminated entirely, and all treatments aim to slow down its progression and prevent flare-ups. The most commonly used treatment is a cortisone eye drop, which is administered daily.
Tips on how to take care of an old Greyhound
You may find yourself spending more time attending to your greyhound needs as they grow older. Caring for an aging greyhound is not only rewarding but also an honoring gesture. With the advancement in nutrition and medicine, we can help lead our loving friends into their later years with comfort and dignity.
The question often asked now is, “My Greyhound is now older. What should I do differently than when they were younger?”
Here are tips you should adopt to take care of your aging greyhound:
Greyhounds were bred to run, but they don’t need to run to be happy. Given their inclination to joint pain and inflammation, running will overexert your dog’s joints, causing more harm. Preferably opt for a short walk of up to a maximum of 20 minutes.
Manage your hound’s weight.
Weight is an uphill task for owners with aging greyhounds. Extremes should be avoided; your dog shouldn’t be too skinny or overweight. Excess weight tends to cause a deterioration on your dog, especially if they suffer from rear leg weakness.
Re-evaluate your greyhound’s diet.
If health problems start popping up, you need to readjust your greyhound’s diet with your vet’s help. Use foods that utilize minimal by-products and have improved palatability.
Your pet’s stool should be firm but not runny, and their fur should be shiny. Feed your dog less food but more often to avoid overloading their digestive system.
Gradually decrease calorie intake to minimalize weight gain. Keep track of any changes in appetite for your dog too.
Proper dental care
Your dog should have pleasant breath. Excellent dental care elevates your hounds overall health and facilitates a longer life span. Poor dental hygiene causes kidney, heart, and other organ inconsistencies. Brush your greyhound’s teeth daily and in the recommended manner.
Take your dog out more often to potty.
Older greyhounds tend to go out more often as their nether region muscles are loose. Let your dog go out often during the day, later in the night, and earlier in the morning.
Maintain a reduced form of exercise.
Old or not, dogs do need regular exercise. For older greyhounds, exercise keeps heir joints, weight, and muscles healthier. Walks are a great way to reduce boredom, provide mental and physical stimulation, and reduce anxiety.
Over-exercising an old greyhound can have detrimental effects. Remember, your hound doesn’t have the same energy he once had. Use familiar routes and scenery that won’t cause your dog any stress.
Choose the best bed to relieve soreness.
A comfortable bed for your dog is the difference between a good night’s sleep, and waking up with sore joints. If your hound seems stiff in the morning, his bed is the number one culprit. Seniors need special beds with thick memory foam that molds to your hound’s body and doesn’t exert pressure on his shoulders and hips. Solid foam is also better preferred to shredded foam due to its support structure.
Use non-slip rugs on hard floors.
Is your dog spending less time in the kitchen? He is probably struggling to find footing on the slippery floors. Slipping is much more painful for a hound with achy joints or osteoarthritis than it would have been a while back. Use a non-slip runner to cover hard floors and open up the house again for your hound.
Ensure the non-slip runner has a non-slip rubber backing. The only other thing scarier for an older hound than a slippery floor is a shifty floor.
Get a portable ramp to help your hound into the car.
The older your hound gets, the harder simpler tasks get. Getting into the car is one of them; a hound with joint pain will be reluctant to jump in. However, when asked to, most senior dogs will still jump in because they don’t want to be left behind.
No matter how small it seems, jumping may damage your dog’s joint cartilage and cause excruciating pain. A portable ramp is a great way for your hound to easily walk in and out of the car without exerting his joints.
Take your time to teach your dog how to utilize it and practice before he needs it.
Avoid re-arranging furniture and keep the floor clutter-free.
Your hound’s sight and sense of smell will deteriorate over time. To navigate around the house, your dog will need to rely more on their memory. Due to this reason, avoid re-arranging furniture as it may cause your dog anxiety and stress when trying to get around the house.
Keep the floors clear without any clutter, as it is easy for your dog to miss something and slip on the floors.
Keep a stock of belly bands.
With ages comes weak bowel control. You may have noticed your hound is making more messes and can’t keep up with house training and potty training as well as he used to. The trick is to use bellybands with incontinence liners. Bellybands help keep the mess to a minimum and are way easier to clean. If you get them in cool patterns, they simply look like fascinating accessories.
Beware of overheating
Old hounds love to bask in the sun, and you need to be careful that they do not overheat. Keep monitoring them, especially over the summer. Old hounds easily get short of breath due to high humidity. Preferably, allow your dog to lie under a shade when outdoors. This allows them to stay cool but also enjoy the heat.
Allow your hound to nap.
Greyhounds are great sleepers, and they age, they need even more sleep. Ensure your dog gets plenty of naptime during the day. The more rest your dog enjoys, the better they can manage their aches and pains. When your dog rests well during the day, he will enjoy a better night’s rest with less wandering and discomfort.
Access to freshwater
Fresh drinking water should be available for your dog at all times. Increased thirst is another sign of old age in older hounds. It may also be a symptom of kidney or liver disease. Measure your hound’s water intake by filling the bowl using a measuring jug and measuring how much they drank during the day.
Use natural supplements
Supplements have a positive impact on an aging hound’s joints, brain, and body. These supplements include:
- Omega-3 – Omega-3 is known for its anti-inflammatory effect. They also help reduce joint pain and improve cognition. Omega-3 can be readily found in plant oil, fish, and phytoplankton.
- Probiotics – Probiotics help with digestion and strengthen the immune system not just in humans but also in dogs.
- Mushrooms – Certain mushrooms contain beta-glucan that contains anti-tumor and immune-modulating properties.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin – These are often recommended by vets to protect joint cartilage. It is prescribed, especially for canine suffering from osteoarthritis. The two supplements contribute to the synthesis of elements used as building blocks in the formation of cartilage. They also contain mild anti-inflammatory effects.
FAQ about greyhound growing old
Can my old greyhound be playful?
Ample play when your hound was a puppy increases the chances of a playful older hound. A stimulating environment filled with toys and food puzzles can induce playfulness from an older greyhound. Use a reward system to encourage your old greyhound to be active and more playful.
Will my greyhound get stubborn as it ages?
Behavior changes in old greyhound are common, and owners should manage their expectations. A greyhound’s degree of stubbornness is mostly affected by cognitive dysfunction. If the symptoms are dire, your dog may be more stubborn as they will be easily confused, not able to navigate around obstacles, less interested in interaction with people and other pets, fixated on things, and more vocal.
Can I slow my dog’s aging?
Aging is inevitable; however, we can help our hounds retain their youthful exuberance through some of the basic practices of good pet care. These practices include:
- Maintaining a good exercise regime. As your pet progresses in age, keep tweaking their exercise regime to suit their energy levels and physical capabilities. Even old hounds need regular exercise, consult your vet for the best exercises for your hound. Such exercise includes short walks and games.
- A healthy diet helps keep your hound’s body healthy and active. Find the right balance of calories to proteins to fats that suits your dog at every stage of their life. Quality foods alleviate the quality of life you provide your pet.
- A regular supply of water to keep your hound always hydrated will go a long way.
Which age is considered old for a greyhound?
Larger dogs such as the greyhound tend to age faster than smaller dog breeds. A greyhound’s life expectancy is up to 13 years; therefore, your hound is considered a ‘senior citizen’ at seven or eight years old.
It is beyond us to keep our greyhounds from aging; fortunately, we can offer them a quality life well into their later years. Living with an aging greyhound can be challenging but also gratifying in the same breathe. Ensure your hound is examined at least every semi-annually with routine tests to screen for diseases. Look out for behavioral changes and report to your vet. Be conscious of your greyhound’s shortcomings and re-calibrate your expectations.