The Senior Citizen Pet
Old Age in Dogs â€“ Part II
Weâ€™ve already discussed the fact that large dogs age earlier and faster than smaller breeds but, as with us mere humans, there are many lifestyle factors that can affect the aging process as well. As we get older, many of us become less active and more sedentary while continuing the eating habits and diet choices that weâ€™ve become accustomed to over our lifetime. This leads, not only to tighter jeans or larger shirts (for us) but also contributes to several health risks or problems. The same can certainly be said for our pets with one exceptionâ€¦ They rely on us to feed them and exercise them properly. We determine what, when and how much they eat (if weâ€™re lucky). We determine when and if they get plenty of exercise. We determine if they get regular checkups.
Regular checkups are always important, at any stage, from playful puppy to lazy old lapdog (or huge hound). However, once your pet seems to be slowing down, sleeping more, interacting less and particularly, if certain tasks have become more difficult like, say, climbing stairs or jumping up on the couch or bed next to you, more frequent trips to the vet should be scheduled. At least twice a year, and donâ€™t be afraid to ask your vet about anything that seems unusual. Remember he (or she) sees your pet once or twice a year for a few minutes.
Below is a list of symptoms and the associated disease(s) most common to older dogs.
|Weight loss. Excessive thirst or drinking. Excessive urination||Diabetes or Kidney Disorder|
|Incontinence (uncontrolled urination, particularly in spayed
|Stiffness, lameness or trouble getting around or up and down||Arthritis|
|Frequent coughing. Trouble breathing. Lack of energy/stamina (tires
|Heart or Lung Condition|
|Hazy, whitish appearance to eyes (trouble seeing)||Cataracts|
|Bad breath. Trouble eating hard food. Loose teeth. Sore or bleeding
|Large lumps under skin||Tumors or cysts|
These are just a few of the possibilities. No one knows your dog better than you. If you notice a change in behavior, consult your vet.
What Can You Do?
Your pet needs proper nutrition always, but if he/she has reached that stage in life where nothing is worth running for and very little is even worth more than a glance over the shoulder during naptimes (which are growing in number and length), then you have to make certain that his/her diet reflects that.
There are more than a few â€œreduced calorieâ€ dog and cat foods but most often these have restricted fat levels to attain the â€œreduced calorieâ€ title. This actually causes an increase in carbohydrate percentages which stimulates insulin secretion which tells the body to â€œstoreâ€ unused calories as fat. In other words the exact opposite effect of what you are looking for.
One idea (for dogs) is keep feeding the same favorite food that â€œFluffyâ€ is used to but substitute a portion of (canned) green beans for an equal portion of feed. Dogs generally love it and it has nutritional value with almost no calories or fat.
I would be remiss if I did not pause here to mention the growing concern about products from China. I am not picking on China by any means but letâ€™s face it, they have had a streak of bad â€œincidentsâ€ of late that makes everything suspect. Many people have chosen to adopt a totally natural diet for their pets; others will only feed things they cook themselves. There is no foolproof system for it. We (the United States), have had our own share of troubles in the recent past. â€“ Spinach anyone? Can you say e-coli? How about botulism? The point is, whatever you decide there are always risks. Always be aware. Your diligence is their best protection.
The â€œEâ€ word
Just as with our own â€œgrowingâ€ problem, a big part of weight gain can be attributed to lack of proper exercise. WAIT! Donâ€™t tune out. I know this is tantamount to treason, luring you in here with â€œFidoâ€™sâ€ health and then using the â€œEâ€ word, but, hear me out. Regular exercise can help prevent â€œSpudâ€ from looking like a couch potato and prevent joint problems including arthritis. If your pet already seems to be suffering from arthritis or joint pain, please consult your vet before beginning any regimen.
Donâ€™t forget dental care
You brush your teeth and maybe even your kidâ€™s teeth at one time but who will clean â€œRangerâ€™sâ€? Be sure to have your vet keep up with dental care. Periodic cleanings can avoid many health issues. Many veterinarians believe that oral disease is the number one health problem diagnosed in dogs. By age 3, it is estimated that 80% of dogs are already showing signs or symptoms of oral disease. What is more shocking and significant is that, left untreated, this can lead to loose teeth, painful abscesses, bone loss or infection. And that infection could cause damage to heart valves, liver and kidneys.
If you choose to brush your dogâ€™s teeth at home, be sure to use a specialized toothpaste for dogs at least three times a week. Human toothpastes have a foaming action that is unpleasant to dogs and they cannot spit or rinse. There are many toys and treats made to help clean teeth also.
Older dogs need love and attention tooâ€¦
Be aware that, as inconvenient or troubling as these changes and the associated needs are to you, they are equally, if not more, disturbing to your four-legged pal. Aside from the many physiological changes there may be some psychological changes as well. Much patience may be required.
Remember, if â€œBusterâ€ or â€œLucyâ€ suddenly seems to forget all his or her training and house-breaking, it is not out of spite or laziness; it may well be a case of age-related incontinence. There are diapers and pads and medications as well as natural remedies for these type issues, which validate this real problem. Be patient and understanding. Can you imagine being scolded or punished for something you couldnâ€™t control or even understand?
What was it I was barking at?
There are a number of things that our pets have in common with us, not the least of which is the slow, steady, if not subtle, decline of our bodies and our minds as we age. Nutri-Vet® offers a chewable tablet called Clear Thoughts™ that is specially formulated to maintain mental acuity in older dogs. I wonder if it will help me find my car keys.
There are so many good products out there to ease the pains and burdens of aging for your pet. Pain relievers, joint supplements, softer treats, digestive aids, steps and ramps, vitamins and supplements, as well as heated or orthopedic beds are just some of the types of items designed with the senior dog (or cat) in mind.
Next time â€“ The Early Bird Dog Gets Worms
As always, information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.
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