The first thing to think about is, when does my dog become a senior? Generally, giant breed dogs age more quickly than smaller breed dogs. A Great Dane will be senior by about 5 or 6 years of age. A Chihuahua would not become a senior until around 10 or 11 years. Large breed dogs fall in the middle. A Lab may be considered senior by 8 or 10 years of age. Many thing factor into this, such as health, fitness, and nutrition and effect how fast your dog will age.
As your dog grows older he or she may develop arthritis that could slow him down. You will notice that your dog may not be able to walk as far as he used to or play as long. You may see that he may have trouble getting up or seem uncomfortable when trying to sleep. He may seem to not want to go up and down stairs, and may be hesitant to get into and out of the car.
You may also notice weight gain or weight loss. If your dog becomes less active then weight gain will be the result. Dental disease can be painful to your dog, causing your dog to have a hard time eating. Senior dogs also can suffer from kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease and other conditions that may result in weight loss.
Here’s what you can do the make your senior dog’s life great:
Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. Your dog will need a full exam at least once a year. Even if you feel he is healthy, many diseases are not obvious, and only a Vet can assess his health. It is much easier and certainly better for you and your dog to prevent disease rather than to treat it!
Ask your vet for body condition evaluation. Body condition will determine if your senior dog is overweight, underweight, or at an ideal body weight. You should also ask your vet to show you how to determine your dog's body condition so you can monitor it yourself in between vet visits.
Quality Diet. Make sure you’re feeding your older dog high quality dog food diet. Learn to read the dog food label and understand what ingredients are important or which are unnecessary. Also pick a diet that is right for your dog’s age and activity.
Special Diets. Keep your senior dog at the ideal weight using the right diet. Overweight dogs have a higher chance of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Your vet can assist you to pick the right diet for your dog to ensure that all nutritional needs are met while maintain the correct weight.
Think about fortifying your dog’s diet. Studies have shown that fatty acids, such as, DHA and EPA are effective for dogs with movement issues from arthritis or other joint diseases. Supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, are also helpful for senior dogs. If your older dog has heart or kidney disease consider a special diet. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best food for your dog based on your dog’s individual situation.
Take care of your dog’s teeth. It’s important to brush your dog’s teeth. It can help keep your dog’s mouth healthy. If you don’t want to brush, then use dental treats or dental toys that help keep teeth clean.
Your senior dog needs exercise. Just like for you, exercise can help keep your older dog maintain healthy joints and muscles. Keep in mind that you need to customize your dog’s exercise needs to his own requirements. If your senior is not used to exercise, consulted a veterinarian, who will give you ideas and guideline.
Keep your senior dog’s mind alert. Food puzzles, for example, are useful for entertainment and for weight loss.
Give your older dog comfort. An extra thick soft bed will comfort dogs with arthritis. Pet ramps and stairs can be used to make getting in and out of your vehicle easier and getting up and down from furniture. Put carpeting or rugs over hard floors to help your arthritic dog gain his footing and make it easier for him to get around.
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