Boston Terrier Old Age Problems [How to Care for a Senior Boston Terrier]

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If you’re lucky enough to share your life with a Boston Terrier, you’re well aware of their goofiness, their feisty spirit, and their unconditional love.

But as your Boston Terrier steps into the golden years, you might notice they’re not as spry as they once were.

Aging, while a natural part of life, comes with its unique set of challenges for our canine friends.

Unfortunately, Boston Terriers are predisposed to certain conditions that can make their twilight years a bit more difficult to navigate.

Common old age issues in Boston Terriers can range from vision complications such as cataracts and glaucoma, to a partial loss of hearing, and even to arthritis. Other issues may include obesity, dental troubles, and heart problems.

Aging Bostons require a more tailored approach to care compared to their younger counterparts. A balance of nutrition and exercise to manage weight, diligent dental care, regular health check-ups, comfortable bedding, and potentially, additional supplements to support their joints, are just a few of the necessities when caring for a senior Boston Terrier.

In this article, we’re going to dive into these common age-related conditions and provide you with a comprehensive guide to giving your senior Boston Terrier the best care possible.

With a little extra attention and lots of love, your furry friend’s twilight years can be just as rewarding and filled with joy as their puppy days.

Caring for a Senior Boston Terrier

Common Health Issues in Aging Boston Terriers

Aging in Boston Terriers, like all dogs, is a gradual process that involves the natural wear and tear of the tissues making up their organ systems.

As your Boston Terrier matures into their senior years, the rate at which their body produces new cells slows down, contributing to the onset of age-related issues.

Boston Terriers are a Brachycephalic breed. This lifelong chronic condition can impact their respiratory system, making it harder for them to breathe and live comfortably as they get older.

Other challenges that come with old age in Boston Terriers can be as unique as the dogs themselves. Let’s get into some of the challenges Boston Terriers may experience as the get older.

Vision Problems

Boston Terriers are prone to a variety of eye issues, and as they get older the risk of vision problems increases.

Some eye problems that older Boston Terrier might experience include cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye, corneal ulcers, and progressive retinal atrophy.

Cataracts

Cataracts refer to the clouding of the lens of the eye, leading to a decrease in vision or even blindness. This issue arises from the clumping of proteins within the lens, which prevents light from properly reaching the retina.

Cataracts can naturally develop as your Boston Terrier ages, and may require surgical intervention if they significantly impair your pet’s vision.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is another serious condition that involves increased pressure within the eye, leading to damage to the optic nerve. This condition develops due to an imbalance in the production and drainage of fluid in the eye.

Symptoms can include pain, redness, bulging eyes, and if left untreated, loss of vision. Immediate veterinary attention is crucial for a dog suspected of having glaucoma.

Topical medications can often help relieve the eye’s hypertension.

Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Dry eye, or Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, is a condition where there is insufficient tear production. This lack of tears leads to dryness, inflammation, and potential damage to the cornea. Symptoms often include redness, discharge, and squinting.

Treatment typically involves the use of artificial tear supplements and anti-inflammatory topical medications. Always consult your veterinarian before using any medication.

Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers can develop due to various factors, such as scratches or foreign bodies in the eye, infections, or distichiasis (a condition where hair grows in a way that irritates the cornea). These ulcers are more common in older dogs due to the natural structural changes in the cornea.

Corneal ulcers can be painful and require prompt veterinary treatment to prevent complications. Some chronic cases might even necessitate surgery to avoid complete vision loss. Always consult your veterinarian about the stage and severity of the condition.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA is an inherited degenerative disorder that damages the retina, leading to progressive vision loss. Specifically, it causes the retinal photoreceptor cells to atrophy or shorten, impairing their normal function.

Boston Terriers can be predisposed to a specific form of PRA, known as Boston Terrier PRA, which is caused by a genetic mutation.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for PRA, and affected dogs may eventually become blind. The goal of treatment is to relieve any symptoms of discomfort and improve the quality of life for your Boston Terrier.

Supplements such as antioxidants, Omega 3, and Vitamin A might help slow down the progression of the atrophy to some degree. Signs of PRA include night blindness, partial to complete loss of vision, disorientation, and dilated pupils unresponsive to light.

Boston Terrier Old Age Problems [How to Care for a Senior Boston Terrier]

Hearing Loss

Just like humans, Boston Terriers can experience hearing loss as they reach old age. This is a natural phenomenon linked to the gradual degeneration of the auditory system

The nerves of the auditory system that transmit sound signals to the brain start to deteriorate slowly over time.

Age-related hearing loss typically develops gradually and progresses slowly over time. It may start with difficulty hearing certain frequencies or sounds and progressively worsen.

Pay close attention to any changes in your Boston Terrier’s response to sounds or signs of confusion during communication.

Signs of Hearing Loss

Lack of Responsiveness: If your Boston Terrier doesn’t respond to sounds they previously reacted to, such as your voice, the doorbell, or other familiar noises, it could be a sign of hearing loss.

Lack of Attention: Difficulty paying attention or seeming distracted when you call their name or give commands may indicate hearing impairment. They may appear aloof or unresponsive to their surroundings.

Easily Surprised: Boston Terriers with hearing loss may startle easily, especially if they are unaware of someone approaching them from behind or if sudden loud noises occur.

Change in Barking Behavior: Hearing-impaired dogs may bark more frequently than usual, often as a way to compensate for their reduced ability to hear and communicate. They may be more alert and reactive to their environment.

Disorientation: Dogs with hearing loss may become disoriented or confused, especially in unfamiliar surroundings or situations. They may seem unsure of their surroundings and exhibit signs of anxiety or nervousness.

Sleep Disturbances: Boston Terriers with hearing loss may have trouble settling down and sleeping peacefully. They may be more alert to their environment and easily awakened by noises.

Caring for a Boston Terrier with Hearing Loss

Even though hearing is an essential sense for dogs, helping them respond to your verbal commands and communicate, other methods can be employed, such as sign language. Sign language involves using your hands to train your dog to understand basic commands.

Devices like vibrating tools can help alert your dog of their surroundings. Moreover, creating a safe environment can significantly help with behavioral issues related to hearing loss, like disorientation.

Maintaining regular veterinary check-ups for your aging Boston Terrier is critical. The vet can assess their overall health, including their hearing, and provide guidance on managing any hearing loss or related issues.

They can also rule out other potential causes for hearing loss, such as ear infections or underlying conditions like Otitis (inflammation of the ear) that may contribute to hearing loss.

Making adjustments to your Boston Terrier’s environment to accommodate their hearing loss is also vital. Provide a calm and quiet space for rest and be cautious when approaching them from behind to avoid startling them.

You may also consider having them wear a hard of hearing warning collar when they are out in public to alert others of their hearing impairment.

Dental Problems

Senior Boston Terriers often face a host of dental health issues. These problems, including dental tartar, tooth decay, halitosis, and gum diseases like periodontitis, are common among older dogs.

Dental Tartar

Dental tartar forms when plaque—a sticky substance made of leftover food particles and saliva—hardens. A biofilm of bacteria present in the tartar can erode the tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay.

Signs of dental tartar include bad breath, yellow to brown hard deposits on the teeth, and bleeding gums.

Dental cleaning and scaling are required to treat this condition. If the gums are involved, antibiotics may be prescribed.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, or dental caries, can be a significant issue in older Boston Terriers. It’s often associated with poor dental hygiene, a diet high in sugary or starchy foods, or the presence of plaque and tartar.

Symptoms of tooth decay include discolored or broken teeth, bad breath, and discomfort or pain while eating.

Treatment measures include changing the diet, using dental chews, providing pain-relieving medications, and administering oral antibiotics to treat any concurrent oral infection.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a chronic, progressive disorder that affects the gums and margins of the teeth. It refers to gum inflammation caused by infection due to tartar buildup that rubs against the gums, causing inflammation.

The disease has four stages. The first stage is mild, with signs like slight redness at the base of the teeth. The second stage involves moderate inflammation. The third stage is marked by severe inflammation, halitosis (bad breath), hardened tartar, and bleeding gums. The fourth stage is characterized by swollen gums (gingivitis), bleeding, and significant tooth decay.

Several factors determine the stage of the disease, including a diet rich in sugar, lack of dental hygiene, infection, and age.

Tips for maintaining Oral Hygiene in Old age Boston Terriers:

Maintaining oral health is crucial for preventing gum disease and tooth decay in old Boston terriers. Some of the tips that may prove helpful for owners are as follows:

  • Regular dental cleaning by using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste that is specifically designed for dogs, it will reduce the buildup of plague.
  • Dental scaling on a regular basis to reduce the buildup of tartar.
  • Dental examinations during a veterinary health checkup, can help detect dental issues like tartars, stage of Periodontal disease.
  • Use of dental chews and specific diets that are prepared for optimum dental health.
  • Avoiding sugars and creamy treats that can worsen dental problems.
  • Shifting to a soft diet if you observe any underlying dental issue, always consult a Veterinarian about diet and medications.

Obesity and Joint Issues

The aging process in Boston Terriers can present various health issues, including obesity and joint problems like arthritis.

Obesity

Obesity refers to the excessive accumulation of body fat, leading to a weight increase beyond the ideal range for a dog’s breed and size. Older dogs are more susceptible to obesity due to decreased physical activity and metabolic rate.

Factors contributing to obesity include overfeeding, a sedentary lifestyle, certain medical conditions like fatty liver disease, and genetic predisposition.

Boston Terriers are considered obese when their weight exceeds their ideal weight by 20%. Over conditioned dogs have a body condition score of 5 (on a standard 1 to 5 scale), meaning no ribs are visible and the body is covered with fat.

Obesity can be harmful to your Boston Terrier’s overall health, as the extra weight puts strain on already weakened joints, exacerbating arthritis.

Obesity can also lead to other metabolic conditions like diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, pancreatitis, heart disease, and hepatic lipidosis.

Managing Obesity in a Boston Terrier

Obesity can be managed by reducing your dog’s body weight through a low-calorie, low-fat, high-protein diet.

Regular exercise is essential to control weight gain and maintain optimum body condition.

Regular veterinary check-ups, liver, kidney, and heart function tests can provide useful insights on organ health, and supportive medication and dietary changes can help control complications.

Arthritis

Arthritis refers to the inflammation and degeneration of the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. It is a common condition in older dogs and can be especially prevalent in overweight or obese dogs due to the increased strain on their joints.

Arthritis can develop due to various factors, including wear and tear over time, genetic predisposition, joint injuries, and certain diseases.

How Arthritis Develops and How to Manage It

Arthritis develops in older dogs due to the progressive degeneration of cartilage and joint fluid (synovial fluid), which supports joint movement in limbs.

Bony outgrowths can develop in the joints with fluid buildup, and causes include infections, trauma, obesity, and autoimmune diseases.

Arthritis is treated with anti-inflammatory medications using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Meloxicam.

Joint infections are treated with antibiotics, and joint support is provided in some cases with warm compresses.

Shifting to a low-calorie diet can help your Boston Terrier lose weight, and soft cushions and mats can prevent excessive strain on the joints.

Supplements containing chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine can support joint cartilage. These are natural components of articular cartilage that promote elasticity. Natural sources of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine include chicken shanks and beef trachea.

Boston Terrier Old Age Problems [How to Care for a Senior Boston Terrier]

Heart Conditions

As Boston Terriers age, they become prone to various heart conditions due to the degeneration of cardiovascular tissue.

Factors such as lack of exercise, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and metabolic diseases can put additional stress on heart tissue.

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)

MVD is the most common heart condition in small to medium-sized dog breeds, including Boston Terriers. The disease occurs when the mitral valve, which separates the left atrium and ventricle, becomes degenerative and fails to close properly.

As a result, there’s a backward flow of blood, causing a heart murmur. MVD typically progresses slowly, with symptoms such as coughing, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, and fluid buildup in the lungs.

Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias refer to abnormal heart rhythms. In dogs with this condition, the typical “lub-dub” sound heard during heart muscle contractions and relaxations varies in frequency.

Arrhythmias can occur in dogs of any age, including older Boston Terriers, and can manifest as irregular heartbeats, fast (Tachycardia) or slow heart rates (Bradycardia), and fainting spells.

While some arrhythmias are benign, others may require medical intervention. An electrocardiogram (ECG) can help diagnose and determine the appropriate treatment.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is characterized by the enlargement and weakened contraction of the heart chambers, particularly the left ventricle. Though it’s more commonly associated with larger dog breeds, Boston Terriers can also be affected.

Symptoms may include coughing, lethargy, rapid breathing, exercise intolerance, and fainting.

Factors such as nutritional deficiencies, genetic predisposition, and a deficiency in taurine (an amino acid) have been associated with DCM in some cases.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Heart failure is the second leading cause of death in old-age Boston Terriers. Congestive heart failure results from heart valve insufficiency and the heart muscles’ inability to pump enough blood due to congestion.

This failure can be on the right side (causing poor venous return, leading to blood leakage back into the right atrium and fluid buildup in the body) or the left side (resulting in poor forward flow, blood seepage back from the mitral valve, and fluid buildup in the lungs).

Symptoms include difficulty in breathing, coughing, exercise intolerance, fluid buildup in the belly (ascites), and lethargy.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Heart Conditions

Heart conditions can be diagnosed by veterinarians through auscultation of heart sounds, detection of arrhythmias and murmurs, and assessment of heart rate and rhythm quality.

Additional diagnostics such as an ECG, chest X-rays, and ultrasound of the heart and lungs can further elucidate your dog’s heart health.

Treatment typically involves medications to support heart muscle contractions and alleviate arrhythmia.

Some of the medications your veterinarian may prescribe include beta blockers like Atenolol, Digoxin, and diuretics to relieve signs of arrhythmia and ascites.

Caring for an Older Boston Terrier

Older Boston Terriers require special care to prevent and manage various health conditions such as obesity, dental diseases, vision and hearing loss, and heart disease.

This involves providing balanced nutrition, fulfilling exercise requirements, scheduling regular veterinary checkups, and stimulating their minds.

Balanced Nutrition

To meet the specific nutritional needs of an older Boston Terrier, provide them with a balanced and age-appropriate diet. Senior dog foods are readily available and are designed to meet the nutritional requirements of older dogs.

Consult your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your dog, considering factors such as weight, overall health, existing conditions like diabetes, and any specific dietary requirements.

Supplements like chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine may also be beneficial to include in your pet’s diet.

Exercise Requirements and Mental Stimulation

Regular exercise is essential to keeping your Boston Terrier physically and mentally stimulated. However, remember that older dogs may have reduced energy levels or mobility issues.

Consequently, it’s advisable to modify their exercise routine to include low-impact activities such as leisurely walks or gentle play sessions.

Alongside physical activity, mental stimulation is crucial for the emotional wellbeing of an older dog.

Engage your Boston Terrier in mental stimulation activities, such as puzzle toys or interactive games, to keep their minds active.

Regular Health Checkups and Dental Care

Regular veterinary visits are vital for comprehensive examinations, vaccinations, and preventive care. As your Boston Terrier ages, they may require more frequent check-ups to monitor their health and address any age-related issues promptly.

Dental hygiene is another critical aspect of caring for older dogs. To prevent dental diseases and maintain overall health, regularly brush your Boston Terrier’s teeth with a dog-friendly toothpaste.

Additionally, provide them with dental chews or toys to promote oral health. Professional dental cleanings as recommended by your veterinarian will also ensure optimal dental health.

Caring for a Senior Boston Terrier Wrapup

Being aware of the common health problems faced by senior Boston Terriers is instrumental in preventing, managing, and providing superior healthcare for these beloved pets.

The common health issues associated with aging in this breed include vision issues such as cataracts and glaucoma, progressive hearing loss, dental diseases like periodontitis, joint inflammation known as arthritis, and metabolic issues related to obesity.

Moreover, heart conditions can develop, which can significantly impact the daily activities of your aging Boston Terrier.

However, these health challenges can be managed effectively with the right approach and proper veterinary guidance. By maintaining a balanced diet to prevent weight gain, scheduling regular health checkups, and ensuring appropriate exercise and recreation, you can significantly improve the lifestyle of your senior Boston Terrier.

The journey into their golden years may present a few hurdles, but with your loving care and dedication, your Boston Terrier can enjoy a quality life, filled with joy and companionship.

Dr. Shahzaib Wahid DVM

Dr. Shahzaib Wahid, DVM, currently works an Associate Veterinarian at an animal clinic in Islamabad, Pakistan. As an experienced veterinarian, Dr. Wahid has a passion for providing advice and helping pet owners.

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