As a breed, they tend to maintain their 'puppyish' behavior throughout their entire life.
Dalmatians have always done well in the veteran classes at shows as they look and behave so young.
Some Dalmatians will show their age much earlier than others. You will start to see signs such as:
Thinning of the coat (showing even more spots!)
'Greying' of the pigment around the muzzle and head.
Stiffness shown after exercise
Weight gain or weight loss.
When these signs are first seen, it is of course important for the Dalmatian to have a check up with the vet, as some of these signs are symptoms for other health problems.
Taking good care of an elderly Dalmatian, will not only help to prolong it's life, but to also see that old age is enjoyed. You will be paying back all those years of loyalty your Dalmatian has given to you.
Diet - must be monitored together with the general appearance and weight.
An elderly Dalmatian may require a reduction in carbohydrates and increased oil content, as their digestive system slows down or doesn't function as efficiently.
An elderly Dalmatian also showing signs of stiffness or arthritis should be kept lean. Any additional weight can put extra pressure on the joints and bones and will create more problems. This includes any back problems.
Often elderly Dalmatians will put on too much weight easily, so this will have to be monitored.
If you can keep your Dalmatian at a weight where they can keep mobile, it will benefit their whole system inside and out and help prolong life.
You may wish to consider feeding a specially formulated diet for elderly dogs which contains additives that help with mobility, such as Chondroitin or glucosamine and prebiotics to aid digestion.
Coat - you may need to be more aware of your dog's coat by checking it daily.
Infections from foreign bodies are harder to fight when the Dalmatian is elderly.
You should also be keeping an eye out for any swellings or bumps etc.
A thinning coat may mean your Dalmatian will feel the cold more. You may need to move the dog bed next to a reliable heat source for comfort.
Keeping your Dalmatian clean and comfortable is extra important at this age too.
Be careful to dry them carefully after a bath or wash and keep them warm for a few hours afterwards. A gentle groom every day will also stimulate the skin and underlying muscles promoting good growth and healthy skin.
Stiffness - many breeds as they become elderly suffer from stiffening of the joints or Arthritis.
Exercise is better done for shorter periods, more often. One big, long walk a day, will increase the chance of pain or stiffness afterwards.
You may find that formal road walks on the lead may make your Dalmatian more stiff and it may be wise to take them to an area where they can exercise off the lead instead, as they will automatically choose the most economical pace for them and slow when they get tired etc.
As this may mean putting them into a car to take them out, do watch how they get in and out of your vehicle. They may need lifting in, or you could use a ramp.
Either carefully lift them out, or you could use a large cusion for them to jump onto on the ground.
If your Dalmatian gets really wet from the rain or swimming, it's much more important to dry them off thoroughly and properly. You may want to consider using a dog coat for an hour afterwards, to keep them warm as they finish drying.
A light dog coat could also be used for those really cold days, if you feel your Dalmatian is suffering.
If your elderly Dalmatian lives with other younger dogs, do watch that they don't bump or jump on them to roughly, particularly rushing through doorways etc.
If your Dalmatian is haiving trouble jumping up or down things to try to prevent them from doing so, or using stairs and steps as they could do alot of damage. They may be old but they think they are young!
Incontinence - this should always be worked with in conjunction with your vets.
There are some treatments which may be able to help, but the actual problem must be correctly diagnosed for the approriate treatment to be given.
You may have to wash bedding regularly and give your Dalmatian a warm wash often to prevent soreness etc.
It pays to have your elderly Dalmatian regularly health-checked by your vet as they get older. Any problems can be diagnosed early before any major damage can occur.
And finally, please consider your Dalmatian's dignity and quality of life.
Your Dalmatian is relying on you to make the ultimate decision and hard as it may be to say goodbye, when the time is right you will be doing your Dalmatian a service.