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Advances in medicine and understanding animal behavior, and better approaches and understanding of nutrition have come a long way. Animals are living healthier lives physically – but what about psychologically? Are we doing all that we can for our pets to assure their mental fitness? Are the expectations that are being placed on some dogs especially, just too high?
Our society favors high achievement, fast movers and goal setters – thriving on the 30-minute meal, the list-making-quick-fix-structured-take-a-pill-it-will-solve-the-problem-do-it-my-way mentality. Dogs just don’t live that way. Canines are as vastly different from each other in personality and natural ability as humans are. Despite what is thought by some, there is nothing true about the phrase, “all dogs are the same.”
Caring for Your Senior Dog: 5 Important Things to Know
By Caroline Golon, Petfinder Contributor
Many pet parents struggle with the realization that their dog is getting older. But it’s important to recognize the signs of aging and take measures to ensure your dog’s quality of life doesn’t change. Here are some things you can do.
Feed Your Dog a Nutritious Diet
Good nutrition is important at every age, but, according to Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian and senior pet health expert. “Feeding your pet the proper nutrition in their senior years… is critical to… keeping them active and playful.”
Talk with your vet about the type of diet your dog needs. Your vet can make recommendations about quality brands, ingredients or special formulas your senior dog needs to thrive.
For more information about diet, visit Petfinder’s Dog Nutrition articles.
Help Your Dog Get Enough Exercise
Your dog may be slowing down but that doesn’t mean he should spend his days curled up on the couch. Exercise is critical to keeping your dog healthy, both physically and mentally. Your dog may not be able to go on long hikes with you but shorter, less strenuous walks will keep him feeling good.
According to Dr. Ward, “Exercise is critical to keeping your pet youthful – Keeping a pet lean as they age is one of the most important factors in preventing health issues.”
Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight
Extra pounds on older dogs means more stress on their body, including joints and internal organs. If you feel your dog needs to shed a few pounds, talk with your veterinarian about a weight loss and exercise plan.
Schedule Regular Check Ups
A lot can happen in between vet visits. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends senior dogs see their vets at least every six months for a check up. Many diseases and health issues, if caught early enough, can be treated.
In his book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual (Grand Central Life & Style, 2011), Dr. Marty Becker suggests asking your vet about common issues specific to your dog’s breed, like predisposition to kidney problems, diabetes or severe arthritis. Find out what the early warning signs might be so you can be on the lookout. This is also a good time to talk about your dog’s diet and exercise routine as well.
Don’t Neglect Your Dog’s Teeth
Regular dental care is important throughout your pet’s life but especially for seniors. Dr. Fred Metzger, veterinarian and contributor to the Caring For Your Senior Dog report, says, “older dogs and cats with neglected teeth are time bombs ticking.” The report explains how tartar build up can cause gingivitis, which can cause bacteria to get into the bloodstream, wreaking havoc on your dog’s organs.
A great way to contribute to your senior dog’s good health is to keep his teeth and gums in tip top shape with regular at-home brushing and yearly professional cleanings by your vet.
As they age, our dogs need our care and attention even more. It’s up to us to monitor their health and take measures to keep our pets as healthy and happy as possible in their senior years.
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I have a shih tzu who is adorable, but none too bright! He is a major mama’s boy and wants a bite of anything I have to eat. One day, I was sitting at the dining table and Tippy was sitting quietly nearby (he never begs, just drills holes in you with his eyes!), but every hair on his body was twitching! I was having a salad and knew he wouldn’t eat any greens, but I had a mandarin orange in the salad yet, so I broke off a small piece of orange and tossed to him. I thought he had caught it and was eating it, but he kept sniffing around on the floor and whining. I didn’t know if he wanted more or what. I called him, and he looked up at me and there was the bite of mandarin orange stuck to the fur right above his nose! He could smell it, but he couldn’t find it. I nearly fell out of the chair laughing, then I grabbed the camera and took a picture. The grandkids loved it!