Senior dogs are the best! They have been amazing companions for many years and you know each other very well. Because of this, they have earned the special care required to keep them well and happy for as long as possible.
The age your dog hits senior status varies by breed and other factors, so discuss this with your veterinarian. Old age is not a disease. Any change in your senior dog should be checked. Most things can be helped, at least in making your dog more comfortable, and some things can even be cured.
There are some relatively common medical problems that occur with old age in dogs such as hip dysplasia. Medication may help with pain and inflammation and glucosamine chondroitin sulfate may help to create a healthier joint fluid. You can also help by changing up your dog’s routine to eliminate the need to walk on slick floors, jump into vehicles or climb stairs. Gentle exercise, padded bedding, swimming or rehabilitation are all great ways in which you can help your senior dog. Being overweight is a common risk factor for developing arthritis and losing a few pounds can greatly increase quality of life in older dogs.
Hypothyroidism is another common senior ailment that may have gone undetected in younger years. Common signs of hypothyroidism can include weight gain and decrease in energy which is often over looked and thought of as “the normal signs of aging”. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through a blood test and the thyroid medication is a safe treatment with extremely gratifying benefits. The great news is, this test is included in the geriatric blood screen being run during our senior’s month promotion until the end of November!
Seniors dogs are prone to cancers, so it is important to have any lumps and bumps or symptoms checked promptly. Some dogs get cognitive dysfunction as they age, making them seem confused, however there are medications that may help with this. Changes in kidneys, liver and other organs as well as some medications can shorten the time a dog can hold its bladder or bowels. Never blame an older dog for housetraining accidents. Always have these changes checked out by your veterinarian to see if there is a treatment that can help.
A simple but wise precaution in senior dogs is to have at least one overall health exam annually as well as a geriatric blood screen to pick up any underlining illnesses or disease in their early stages. Normal results are great news but abnormal values can also be helpful to catch major concerns early. X-rays and urine checks may also be recommended by your veterinarian. The veterinarian’s role is to make these services available and your role is to make decisions about what is best for your dog. You will work together with your veterinarian to come up with an appropriate program to best manage your senior pet’s health.
This is the time to cherish your dog’s senior years. They pass too quickly. It’s the time when you have the companionship of a wonderful old friend so let’s make every day count!
Written by Van Isle Veterinary Hospital