Your Senior Bloodhound
Spring 1998 ABC Bulletin
by Karen Leshkivich, DVM

The average life expectancy of bloodhounds is generally assumed to be around seven years.  The biggest killers are bloat, gastric torsion, accidents and cancer.  If your hound is lucky enough to survive these killers, then there is no reason that they cannot enjoy a life past ten years.  I no longer have any geriatric hounds in my house, yet I have had several live well past ten.

Old age should not be synonymous with poor health.

Many age associated problems can be caught early and treated to improve the health and longevity of your hound.  Once your hound reaches six or so, I strongly recommend a geriatric blood screen along with the yearly physical.  This may detect early changes in kidney function, lower disease, etc.  With proper treatment, the progression of a disease or problem can be slowed and altered.

Dental disease is a serious yet under recognized problem.  Has your dog ever had a dental, do you brush your dogs teeth, does your dog have halitosis?  Not only does dental disease cause bad breath, it can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, liver disease, etc.  Bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream and cause bacterial endocarditis, urinary or prostatic infections and even life threatening organ failure.  Keeping those pearly whites is one way to prolong the life of your hound.  Anesthetics used now are very safe, and pre dental bloodwork will point out any problem areas anesthetically.  Have your hound's teeth evaluated by your veterinarian and have a dental done, or if dental disease is not advanced yet, start brushing your hound's teeth--really.

As the heart ages, the valves of the heart may get stiffer and leak, resulting in a murmur that your veterinarian can hear.  If the leakage back through the valves is sufficient enough to cause excess work on the heart, then heart disease can result.  There are medications available to help the heart and prolong the life of your hound's heart.

As the body ages, the kidneys lose more and more of their ability to filter the toxins out of the blood.  The kidneys can function on only 25% of their existing mass, so the earlier kidney disease is diagnosed, the longer your hound will have a good percentage of functioning kidneys.  Watch for early signs, like drinking more, urinating more and a decreased appetite.  Early kidney failure can be treated with diet and later medications and supportive care.

Urinary incontinence can occur with age.  It can be a sign of infection, kidney problems or decreased muscle tone.  Weak muscle tone, a type of incontinence, can be treated with a non-hormone medication.

Arthritis is a common problem in bloodhounds with age.  They are a giant breed, and there is a lot of stress on all their joints and spine throughout their lifetime.  If your hound is slowing down, can't get up the stairs as well, occasionally limps, it could be arthritis or problems with the spine.  There are many medications available now to help with arthritis: neutraceuticals (to help the joints move easily), anti-inflammatories and pain relievers.  Watch for signs that your hound is hurting and see your veterinarian.

Even if your old hound is getting senile, there is help.  There is a recognized condition termed cognitive dysfunction, where your hound loses some brain function and may seem to forget things or daydream.  There are medications that can help this form of senility.

Nutritionally, an older hound does not need as much fat and protein nor as many calories as a younger hound.  Consider a senior diet once they are past seven years old, to help reduce the workload on the kidneys and liver and keep the excess pounds off of those aging joints.

Just remember--old age does not mean poor health.  And old age does not have to mean seven years old, it can mean many years older.  Bloodhounds are special, and those senior hounds are priceless.