Speaking of Pets: Mind your senior dog’s health in his/her old age
Most of us aren’t excited about getting older. We feel the same about our dogs: We recognize the grizzled, gray muzzle that signals our beloved dog is no longer a puppy …but we’d rather not admit it.
Yet barring some catastrophe, our canine companions will in fact become senior citizens, and will probably develop some health issues.
As your dog ages, he may take stairs more slowly, limp after exercise or have problems jumping into the car. Like humans, dogs develop arthritis; studies show that supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM can be helpful. More acute pain signals a visit to your veterinarian.
Impaired hearing and eyesight can be other signs of aging. Both conditions aren’t especially life-altering: many blind or deaf dogs often do quite well navigating their universe.
Almost a third of dogs older than 7 will develop cancer. There are countless types of canine cancers that can occur anywhere in the body. Call your veterinarian if you see any lump or unusual swellings that persist or get larger.
Obesity has repercussions beyond your senior dog’s waistline and can be a contributing factor in all of the health issues I’ve mentioned.
The best preventative measure is to take your senior dog to the vet for regular wellness checkups every six months.
Behavioral and Cognitive Issues
Yes, dogs can suffer from dementia. Canine cognitive dysfunction can cause behavioral problems such as getting lost in familiar surroundings, confusion and disorientation (standing in a corner and not knowing how to get out) as well as increased anxiety or aggression.
There is no cure for canine cognitive dysfunction — however, things that might be able to help include physical and mental games and activities or adding antioxidant nutritional supplements that contain medium-chain triglycerides. Your veterinarian also might suggest prescription drugs to improve your dog’s brain function.
In the end, however, the most important thing to do for your senior dog is make sure he remains a treasured member of your family. As author Eileen Anderson said, “All that matters is to love the dog in front of you.
Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever, Joey, and Maine coon cat, Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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