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Caring for Senior Dogs | Dealing with Older Dog Health Problems

by Bella Woof

Dealing with health problems in older dogs

By Lorie Huston, DVM

Older dogs have different care needs than a younger dog. This fact probably won’t surprise anyone. But how do you know when your dog is considered senior?

It really depends on each dog. In general, giant breed dogs age faster than smaller breed dogs. A Great Dane is considered senior at 5 to 6 years, while a Chihuahua is probably only middle-aged at that time, and probably not considered senior until 10 or 11 years old. Large breed dogs fall somewhere in between. A Golden Retriever can be considered senior between 8 and 10 years of age. Genetics, nutrition, environment; All of these influence how quickly your dog ages.



What are some things you can expect as your dog ages? Your dog may develop arthritis or other degenerative diseases that cause him to slow down. He may not be able to walk as much or play as long. He may tire more easily. He may have difficulty getting up or finding a comfortable sleeping position. He may become reluctant to go up and down stairs or have difficulty getting in and out of the car.

Without proper care, dental disease can be a problem, especially for older pets. You may be surprised to know that veterinarians find evidence of dental disease in many pets as young as 2 or 3 years old. If nothing is done to take care of your dog’s mouth, when your dog is older, he may even have lost some teeth. Dental disease can be painful and cause your dog to avoid or have difficulty eating his meals. This can lead to weight loss and an unkempt coat.

Certainly, dental disease is not the only disease that can cause weight loss. Older dogs often suffer from kidney, liver, heart and other conditions that can cause weight loss.

On the other hand, some older dogs may have the opposite problem. Some dogs become less active with age, essentially becoming couch potatoes, and gaining weight as a result. Obesity is a major health problem in dogs of all ages and older dogs are no different.

What can you do to help your older dog? Here are some tips:

Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. Your dog should be examined at least once a year if it appears healthy, as many diseases are hidden and not obvious. Remember that it is much cheaper to prevent a disease than to treat it!

Request a body condition evaluation during each vet visit. Body condition is crucial in determining whether your senior dog is overweight, underweight, or has an ideal body weight. In fact, you should also ask your veterinarian to show you how to evaluate your dog’s body condition at home.

Feed your senior dog a high-quality diet. also, meGet paid to read the dog food label and choose a diet appropriate for your dog’s age and lifestyle.

Use food to keep your older dog at his ideal body weight. Overweight dogs have a higher incidence of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, skin diseases and even cancer. Your veterinarian can help you choose an appropriate diet for your dog, especially since overweight dogs must be fed carefully to ensure all nutrient needs are met while still allowing for weight loss. For example, specialized low-calorie, high-L-carnitine diets are available for overweight or obese dogs. A diet containing carbohydrates or a carefully selected mixture of carbohydrates can also help your overweight dog feel satiated.

Consider fortifying your senior dog’s diet with fatty acids such as DHA and EPA. They have been shown to be helpful for dogs with mobility problems due to arthritis or other joint diseases. Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin are also beneficial for older dogs.

Consider a special diet if your senior dog has heart or kidney disease. For example, low-sodium diets are sometimes recommended for dogs with heart disease, while dogs with kidney disease are given diets that help control levels of phosphorus, calcium, and other electrolytes. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best food for your dog based on his individual situation.

Take care of your dog’s mouth. Brushing your dog’s teeth may seem like a silly idea, but it can help keep his mouth healthy. If you can’t brush your teeth, consider purchasing dental treats and toys that help keep your teeth clean.

Exercise your older dog. It can help keep your older dog lean and maintain healthy joints and muscles. However, tailor your dog’s exercise needs to your individual needs. For a large breed dog, a walk around the block is probably just the beginning, but for a small Chihuahua, a quick walk around the block can be a long walk. If your father is not used to exercising, start him slowly and gradually increase the intensity, and only after you have consulted a veterinarian. Also, be careful with short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs on hot days.

Provide plenty of toys to keep your older dog occupied. Food puzzles, for example, are not only useful for entertainment but also for weight loss.

Also offer your older dog special accommodations. For example, dogs with arthritis might benefit from soft bedding in the form of a special dog bed or towels/blankets for sleeping. Ramps can be used to make it easier to navigate stairs if they cannot be avoided. Even placing rugs or mats on hard surface floors can help your arthritic dog regain his balance and make it easier for him to get around.

More to explore

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5 diseases of older dogs that you need to know

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