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Proper Care for a Senior Dog

As your beloved pet grows older, special attention will need to be paid to his or her health in order to ensure the highest quality of life during the golden years.  Additionally, certain preventative measures should be taken, to ward off a number of age-related issues before they even begin.  With vigilant care, your senior dog can maintain a happy, healthy, and active lifestyle.

When a dog researches the “senior” category (typically 7 – 9 years old for large breeds, and 8 – 11 for small breeds), begin incorporating a senior blood panel into his or her annual veterinary exam.  This blood test will help the veterinarian monitor for signs of cancer, kidney disease, thyroid disorders, and infection.  Be sure to inquire with your vet about breed-specific disorders to watch out for as your dog begins to age.

If your dog is not already at the proper weight, putting him or her on a diet can reduce the effects of age-related health complaints such as hip or elbow dysplasia, arthritis, liver or kidney malfunctions, and diabetes.  Just as in humans, as a dog grows older, metabolism slows down.  You can begin to feed your dog less food (as directed by the nutrition guide on the dog food packaging), and also cut down on treats.  If you and your dog are finding fewer treats to be disruptive to the daily routine, try swapping healthier options, such as cooked carrots or green beans, for the calorie-laden morsels.  Access to fresh water is especially important for older dogs.  A tell-tale sign that a dog is aging is increased water consumption, which signals that the kidneys and liver do not work as well as they once did.  This sign is not cause for alarm, but do monitor your dog’s intake and contact a veterinarian if extremely drastic increases in water intake are observed.

The next time your older pup gives you a kiss, check his breath.  While “dog breath” is normal, note any instances where your dog’s breath smells downright rotten or sulfurous, as both may be signs of more serious problems, including decaying teeth.  Depending on the age and health condition of your dog, a dental cleaning or tooth extraction may be necessary. Exercise is important for all dogs, especially seniors.  Although likely unable to traverse the same distances as in years past, a daily walk or two is crucial, especially if suffering from arthritis or hip dysplasia.  Movement increases blood circulation, which can ease pain and soreness in old joints.  Finding new sights and sounds outside the house can also help improve quality of life by providing both physical and mental stimulation.

The secret to longevity for all dogs is high quality food, a healthy weight, good preventative care, and proper exercise.  With regular senior check-ups every 6 – 12 months, early warning signs of trouble can be detected, and most likely cured.  Keeping these tips in mind will help him or her arrive at old-age with grace, dignity, and a longer lease on life!

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