Older Dog Health Concerns
My dog, Tess, just turned 10 years old. She seems to be slowing down a little bit, but is generally healthy. Is there anything I can do to help keep her healthy as she ages?
Tess certainly has a great pet owner in you! Tess has entered her “golden years” and would have been considered a senior citizen of the dog world since she turned seven. As dogs get older they go through stages that are remarkably similar to aging humans. They may lose their hearing or eyesight, develop arthritis, and their hair may turn gray. Common older dog health problems are obesity, diseases of the kidneys, liver, and heart, dental disease, and cancer. Luckily, there are several things you can do to help keep Tess happy and healthy.
To help reduce the risk of health problems and help your older pet live a long, full life, it is important for her to have regular veterinary examinations. Talk with your veterinarian about annual blood tests for Tess. Blood tests give insights into her health that could otherwise be missed on a physical examination. As in human medicine, early detection of abnormalities allows your veterinarian to better treat or control problems. Conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure and liver disease can be caught in their early stages before your dog’s quality of life is impacted. Your veterinarian will advise you if other tests are indicated for Tess. X-rays and ultrasound allow a non-invasive look into the body and are particularly important if there are concerns about heart disease.
Some signs of disease are easy to detect at home. Watch Tess carefully
for changes in weight, loss of appetite, vomiting, lumps on or under the
skin, lameness, coughing, bad breath, difficulty getting around, increased
urination, increased water drinking, and behavioral changes.
As pets age, their nutritional needs change. Older animals benefit from specially formulated foods, which are high in fiber and low in fat, and have lower levels of certain nutrients. This keeps your pet’s weight under control and also keeps the heart, kidney, and urinary system healthy. Your veterinarian can recommend a food that meets the special needs of your older pet.
You can also help Tess age gracefully by regularly clipping her toenails. This helps prevent overgrowth and possible slips on slick surfaces. Also, keep plenty of fresh water available, and keep her indoors most of the time, especially in very cold or hot weather. These things, in combination with regular veterinary care and good nutrition, will have a major impact on the length and quality of your time together.