As dogs age, they need increased attention and care. When your canine companion reaches his senior years—for most breeds that’s after age 7—follow these tips to keep him happy, healthy and comfortable.
- Provide quality veterinary care. “Ideally, senior dogs should be evaluated by a veterinarian every six months throughout their senior years,” says veterinarian Stephanie Sosniak, of the Northwoods Animal Hospital in Minocqua, Wis. Each exam should include blood tests to monitor organ function, she says.
- Closely monitor your dog’s weight. Obesity is common in elderly dogs. Unnecessary additional weight causes increased wear on aging joints and also can accelerate the development of arthritis.
- Establish a dental care program. Periodontal disease and other dental problems can plague older dogs, yet “many pet owners are unaware that their dog has a tooth problem,” Sosniak says. A veterinarian can perform a dental assessment, professionally clean your dog’s teeth and teach you how to care for them.
- Keep moving. Your senior dog may not have the boundless energy that she had years ago, but that doesn’t mean she should become a canine couch potato. Daily exercise—in the form of a walk or a gentle game of fetch the ball—will promote strong muscles and general well-being.
- Watch for changes. “Make sure that you keep an eye on your dog’s level of activity,” Sosniak says. “Continually watch for changes in behavior, appetite or thirst.” If you notice something unusual, schedule a checkup. Early assessment and diagnosis of problems can be vital to your dog’s health and happiness during his golden years.