Once you’ve raised your Bichon Frise puppy, you may feel like finally, the hardest parts are behind you.
However, raising an elderly Bichon Frise dog can be just as much of a chore.
The Bichon Frise lifespan averages out to between 12 and 15 years, with some living up until their 20s!
Considering how many health problems begin around the time a Bichon turns 10 years old, you may have a few years of struggle ahead of you with a senior Bichon.
This includes more frequent vet visits, which become the norm for older dogs, as well as medications and supplements to improve their quality of life.
Everybody gets old – even dogs. But with proper care, you can extend your Bichon’s life expectancy and improve the years she has left with you.
Common Senior Bichon Frise Health Problems
When your Bichon starts getting up in age, there are some health problems she may experience that you need to be aware of.
Typically, you’ll see these problems pop up around her tenth year.
That way, if and when you start seeing signs of these conditions in your pet, you can start taking the necessary steps to manage her condition.
Canine diabetes is not curable, but it is easy to manage so long as you keep up with your vet’s advice with regard to diet and medication.
And, unfortunately, diabetes is most common in smaller breeds like the Bichon.
Depending on the severity of your Bichon’s diabetes, your vet may suggest several ways of managing the condition.
For instance, you can:
- Help your Bichon lose weight.
- Give her daily insulin shots and/or medication.
- Regulate the amount and type of food she eats, as well as her feeding schedule.
Following your vet’s advice can slow or even halt the progression of the disease. While it is serious, your dog can still live a relatively normal life.
Arthritis can be a painful condition for your Bichon.
That is why it is so important to keep her on a regular exercise schedule.
There’s a phrase “motion is lotion” that physical therapists often use, and it applies to dogs as well.
The more she gets out there and works her joints, the better she’s going to feel.
Plus, exercise is way healthier than medication (but, of course, if your vet recommends medicine, don’t ignore your vet!).
You can also use a heating pad, pet bed warmer, or orthopedic bed to help ease her sore joints and muscles.
Arthritis does tend to affect larger dogs more often than smaller dogs, but that doesn’t mean smaller dogs are exempt.
As your Bichon ages, you might notice her eyes look a little cloudy.
She may develop a condition called nuclear sclerosis. This is not as serious as cataracts because it does not affect the dog’s vision at all – it just makes her eyes cloudy.
If your dog has cataracts, however, you should definitely see that a vet tends to them.
Left untreated, cataracts can cause your dog to develop full-on blindness.
Kidney disease develops over time and starts to affect Bichons around their halfway point, like around age 5 or 6.
Kidney disease is another progressive condition, which ultimately leads to kidney failure – when your Bichon’s kidneys have lost all or most of their function.
Kidney disease consists of 4 stages, and unless your vet tests for it, you probably won’t know your Bichon has it until stage 3 or 4.
Symptoms of kidney disease in stage 3 include excessive thirst and excessive urination.
Once things progress to stage 4, you’ll notice more symptoms as the toxins the kidneys cannot filter out start affecting the other organs. These symptoms include:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Loss of teeth
- Bones that break easily
When kidney disease reaches this stage, the only options for filtering the toxins out of the blood properly are dialysis, a transplant, or euthanasia.
You can improve your Bichon’s quality of life with kidney disease by providing her with the following:
- A constant fresh water supply
- Food specially designed to assist with kidney disease
- Healthy treats
- Working with your vet to treat any conditions caused by kidney disease, such as tooth loss
Just like people, dogs can develop hearing loss as they age.
What’s interesting, though, is that you may not notice your Bichon’s hearing loss because they can already hear so much better than we do.
So, what amounts to a decreased hearing capability for her may seem like nothing at all is off to you.
It’s important to know this, though, because senior dogs don’t hear high-pitched noises as well anymore.
This means that a child could accidentally startle your senior dog if she doesn’t hear the child coming up behind her, and she could snap out of fear.
Also, remain patient with your senior dog when it seems like she’s ignoring you – she may just not be able to hear you as well.
You can start incorporating other methods of communication, such as hand signals or a clicker.
You could also use devices like a vibration collar or an emergency whistle to get her attention.
Pancreatitis is another condition that can affect your older Bichon. It sounds painful – and it is.
Essentially, when a dog has pancreatitis, this means the pancreas actually starts digesting itself.
This happens when an elderly dog can no longer properly digest the fat in the food she eats.
Pancreatitis is more common in dogs who have diabetes, another common condition for elderly Bichons.
There are two kinds of pancreatitis: acute and chronic.
Symptoms of Acute Pancreatitis
If your Bichon is experiencing acute pancreatitis, then this is an emergency, and you should take her to your vet or an emergency clinic right away.
If you let acute pancreatitis go, your Bichon can slip into shock and multiple organ failure, which can be fatal.
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:
- Diarrhea, often with blood
- Lack of appetite
- Pain and/or swelling in the abdomen
- Irregular heartbeat
Symptoms of Chronic Pancreatitis
If your Bichon has chronic pancreatitis, you may not notice it at first because it develops slowly.
Some symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:
- Excessive thirst
- Yellow or greasy poop
- Loss of appetite
- Laying in a new position (trying to relieve pain)
Unfortunately, by the time many Bichon owners notice something is up, the dog has already suffered severe destruction and/or loss of all their pancreatic tissue.
Canine pancreatitis is a progressive disease, for which there is no cure.
However, with supplements, medicine, and vet care, you can prevent the disease from progressing further and give your Bichon more time and a better quality of life.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections are par for the course for an elderly Bichon, especially if she has a preexisting condition.
Some conditions, like diabetes, bring on urinary tract infections. And as your Bichon ages, her ability to fight off things like UTIs decreases, and so her tendency to develop issues she may have never had before increases.
Female Bichons are more likely to develop a UTI than male Bichons because they have a shorter urethra, which allows more bacteria to access the bladder.
A UTI is tricky because your Bichon may exhibit symptoms, or she may not – yet she may still have an infection.
If your Bichon does show signs of a UTI, here are the symptoms you need to look for:
- Straining to Urinate
- A large pool of urine when she does finally go
- Dark urine or blood in the urine
- Frequent urination or dribbles throughout the house
- Lack of appetite
- Crying when trying to urinate, then licking her genitals after she goes
If you leave a UTI untreated, it can make its way to her kidneys and cause a kidney infection.
The good news is a simple antibiotic prescribed by your vet should be all she needs to clear it up.
Sometimes an elderly Bichon simply cannot hold onto her urine anymore and starts having more frequent accidents.
While this can be quite frustrating to you as a homeowner, remember not to punish your Bichon. She can’t help it, and if it were up to her, she’d try her best to make it outside.
The first thing your vet will do is ensure there is no underlying health condition causing the incontinence.
If not, then your vet may recommend a particular medicine or even surgery to help get your Bichon’s incontinence under control.
Some older Bichons develop issues with anxiety.
This could be the result of a psychological or physical condition. For instance, Bichons can develop a condition called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or “Old Dog Syndrome.”
Old Dog Syndrome is basically the dog version of dementia.
Else, your Bichon may develop anxiety as a reaction to some sort of stimulus that wouldn’t have bothered her as much when she was younger.
You need to work with your vet to determine the real cause of the anxiety in order to treat it, as there are several possible catalysts out there.
Kailyn has worked as a professional freelance writer since 2012, and during that time she has written about nearly every dog breed imaginable. Her mother loved Collies, and so Kailyn grew up with three of them throughout her childhood – including a blonde one who was half-blind! Now her home belongs to her first official dog, Macho, a Dogo Argentino rescue.