Friday, September 10, 2010

The Golden Years

After giving you many years of loyalty, support and companionship, doesn’t your dog deserve the best care you can give him? With the right routines and some loving care, watching your canine companion grow older can be a rewarding experience.

Most veterinarians believe a dog is in his senior years when he reaches the last third of his normal life expectancy. For instance, a large breed dog, such as a Great Dane that lives to be an average of nine years old, would be considered "senior" when he reached the age of six. A poodle that normally lives to be 15 years old would be considered "senior" at 10 years old.

As your pet ages, you may first notice outward signs: white around the muzzle, less exuberance, hesitation trying to stand up after a nap or difficulty climbing into your vehicle. Then there are the internal signs we can't see, like a slowing metabolism, and changing nutritional requirements. Just as we give special attention to the needs of puppies, dogs heading into their senior years require unique attention to help comfort them and extend their precious time with us.

If you're lucky enough to share your home with an older pet, here are some tips we recommend for their care:

Exercise is still important. Although they can still have a grand old time romping and playing, you may need to adjust the frequency and intensity of the exercise your older pet engages in. Using those muscles regularly will help his mobility and possibly even stave off certain diseases. Shorter, more frequent walks or swims can help keep your dog in shape and his weight under control, and the continuation of current activities, whether it be games of fetch or agility, should be continued until your dog exhibits any sign of discomfort.

If your canine friend has arthritis or is stiff and sore, a ramp will help him to get up and down from higher areas like vehicles or furniture, will make it much easier on his joints, and will allow him to maintain some of the adventure he enjoyed as a youngster.

Be gentle on those joints. To protect older elbows and haunches, provide your mature dog with a firm, orthopedic foam bed. There are beds out there specifically designed by veterinarians to "medical-grade", distributing weight evenly and reducing pressure on joints. They are also much easier to get out of in the morning!

Elevated food and water bowls can make eating and drinking more comfortable for arthritic pets, particularly if there is stiffness in the neck or back.

Take your vitamins. Dogs that have arthritis often benefit from drug-free nutritional supplements that contain ingredients such as Glucosamine HCl, Chondroitin Sulfate, and Vitamin C. Just be sure to consult your veterinarian, who can recommend the best supplements for your dog.

Give lots of loving attention. As your pet ages, keep a closer eye on his movements, behavior, and habits. Look for the signs, such as loss of appetite, excessive sleeping, irritability, changes in his gait, weakness, and incontinence. If your pet shows these signs, have him checked by your veterinarian. Be prepared to treat him with a little more love and care than ever before.

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