Helping your dog grow old gracefully

If we are very lucky, our dog will live to a healthy old age, and to make sure that happens there are some simple steps you can take to help your dog grow old gracefully.

(Note older dogs 7+ years of age)

Be aware of the medical conditions that older dogs are susceptible to and a few of their symptoms.  These health conditions can include diabetes, kidney failure, arthritis as well as more common problems with losing their hearing and eye sight.  While there isn’t much you can do about the loss of hearing or eye sight except for adjust your own habits,  it is important that you are not only aware of other health risks for older dogs as well as which medical conditions your particular breed is more susceptible to as their age advances.  By knowing the symptoms and possibilities you are better able to suspect an illness and get medical treatment for your dog.

You may have heard that dogs age 7 years for every one “human year.”  While that is not necessarily accurate dogs do advance in age much faster than people.  As a result their health conditions can deteriorate quickly.  It’s important to have a VCA veterinarian as well as to schedule regular checkups every six months for your pet to monitor their health.

Don’t procrastinate – get up to date and stay that way.  Be sure to continue to provide the “basics” when caring for your dog including flea and tick prevention, dental health and vaccinations.  However, there may be some treatments in vaccinations, anesthetic procedures or general health maintenance that are specifically designed for use by older dogs.  Be sure to check with your veterinarian to find out what these options may be.

Children, adults, and seniors aren’t the only ones that may need supplemental vitamins or minerals.  Your older dog may also require a little extra help.  Not only can supplements help your dog maintain good health, but in some cases may actually be able to help your dog avoid some more extreme medical conditions and issues.  Again, it is important to talk to your veterinarian.

Provide your older dog with the healthiest and most nutritious food you can provide.  Many dog food products offer those which are specifically formulated for your dog’s advancing age, health needs and lowered metabolism and activity level.  As always, be sure your dog has enough fresh, clean water.

Don’t over feed your dog.  What may have been a normal serving of food when they were younger may be too much now, even of the “good stuff.” Remember your dog’s metabolism may not be as fast now, as well as your older pet may not be as active.  Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other more serious health problems.

Exercise can help you dog age gracefully. Consider leash walking and swimming to help keep their bones, muscles and joints healthy. As with humans, your older dog may encounter arthritis and regular low impact exercise that includes a warm up and cool down period can help them remain healthy.

Does eat right, exercise and get regular checkups sound familiar?  What’s good for the “man” (or woman) is also good for “man’s best friend.”

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