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How to Care for a Senior Dog
Most dogs are considered to be senior when they reach 7 to 10 years of age. You can see that your dog is aging when they have a graying of their coat, particularly around the muzzle. As your dog ages, their hearing may not be as good as it once was. His fur may not be as thick and it may take a bit longer for him to get up and about in the morning. He might sleep more than before and may tire out quicker when he plays. Now that he is getting up there in years, there are some special things you should do to make sure that he is as healthy and comfortable as possible. Your senior dog needs to have regular visits with a veterinarian. Once every 6 months should be sufficient if your senior dog appears healthy. It is much less expensive to prevent a disease than to treat one. During the visit to the veterinarian, ask them to evaluate whether or not your dog is at his ideal body weight or if he is overweight or underweight. It is a good idea to talk with your vet and ask them about any potential health issues that your specific breed of dog may predisposed to. Discuss what warning signs you should be on the lookout for in regards to the conditions. According to Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian and senior health pet expert, it is critical to feed your dog proper nutrition in their senior years in order to keep them active and playful. Be sure to read the dog food label and choose a dog food that is designed for your dog’s lifestyle and age. It is important to try and keep your dog at his ideal body weight by feeding him the right food. Dogs that are overweight have a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, skin disease and cancer. For example, special diets that are lower in calories and are high in L-carnitine may be helpful for overweight dogs. If your dog has heart or kidney disease, they may have special needs when it comes to food. Low sodium dog food is good for dogs with heart disease. If a dog has kidney disease, diets which control phosphorous, calcium and electrolyte levels are a good idea. Speak with your veterinarian to determine which the best food for your dog is. Think about adding DHA and EPA fatty acids to your dog’s diet. These have both been shown to be helpful for dogs who have mobility issues because of arthritis or other joint diseases. Glucosamine and chondroitin are also helpful for senior dogs. It is also important to take care of your senior dog’s dental health. Brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis. If you cannot do this, consider getting dental treats and toys that will help keep your dog’s teeth clean. According to a report by veterinarian Dr. Fred Metzger, it is crucial to take care of older dogs’ teeth. This is because if the dog has gingivitis, bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause problems with your dog’s organs. Your senior dog still needs regular exercise. It can help keep your older dog lean and keep his muscles and joints healthy. Be sure to see that you are giving your dog exercise that is appropriate for his size. For example, a small dog may be tired out by a brisk walk around the block, while a larger dog may need a bit more exercise than this. Even though your dog is older, he still needs toys to keep him occupied. Food puzzles are a great example. Your older dog may need special accommodations. If your dog has arthritis, some soft bedding like a special dog bed or blankets to sleep on will be much appreciated. Putting rugs or carpeting over floors that have a hard surface can help your arthritic dog get around more comfortably.