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Care for aging tailwaggers!

Wagging tails, sparkling eyes, smiling face… keep your pooch happy, even in his aging years. Here are a few tips to ensure that your pooch lives a healthy and long life in his golden years.

Dogs begin to show signs of aging between 6 and 13 years. Similar to aging humans, an older pet may experience hearing loss, vision loss, arthritis, liver or kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, etc. Regular visit to the veterinarian can detect these and be treated. The good news is with veterinary medical progress in India, your pet can live better into their geriatric years.

An older dog needs special care and attention to live a long healthy life, which include:

  • Exercise your older pet moderately every day. Try not to over do it.
  • Feed high-quality dog food specific to his senior dietary needs.
  • Be consistent with his schedule.
  • Pet and cuddle your dog frequently.
  • Groom him regularly, checking for lumps and bumps.
  • Keep your dog at a good weight. Suffering from obesity makes your older dog more susceptible to health problems. And this is especially important when he reaches the golden years. Since your dog’s activity level will taper off, you may want to engage in some gentle play to keep him healthy.
  • Maintain a health record for your senior pet.
  • It is important to keep a pet with joint pain from becoming overweight. Carrying extra weight puts more stress on joints that are already inflamed. If the pet is overweight at the time of an arthritis diagnosis, you should discuss a weight loss plan with your pet’s doctor.
  • One of the most effective steps you can take as guardian to a pet with arthritis or other joint pain is to provide some extra comforts.
  • While your senior dog still has control over his muscles and joints, make sure he gets the exercise he needs. Take him to daily walks and make sure he gets his heart rate up to the necessary level for optimal health.
  • Senior dogs’ bones become more fragile, and their cartilage becomes worn. They are also more likely to experience loss of muscle. Make sure your dog stays mobile as long as possible and eats plenty of protein and calcium for strong bones and muscles.
  • When dogs get older, their nutritional needs change. Since they’re getting less activity, their calorie needs may decrease. And they have unique needs that are different from younger dogs.
  • Watch your senior pet closely, check his eyes to make sure they are properly cared for.
  • Maintain your senior dog’s mind, keeping his mind healthy is as important as anything else. Play with your dog, and talk with your dog to keep your dog’s mind functioning well.
  • Take your older dog to the vet often, because older dogs can be more prone to health issues, this can help identify problems.

(Sanjay Jaiswal is GM at Petcare).

Common signs of aging

Your eight-year-old Toy Poodle is still hyper, fit, and happy, while your six-year-old St. Bernard is beginning to lag. Why? A dog’s breed and many other lifestyle factors affect whether or not your dog is actually a senior.

 

There are common signs of aging to look for, to determine whether your dog is a senior:

Moving more slowly: Like humans, dogs can develop orthopaedic problems, like arthritis, that are more common in older pets. If your dog is taking longer to get up or has problems with stairs, take him to the vet to determine the cause and talk about medications that can make him more comfortable.

Your dog is thinner or fatter: A dog’s metabolism will naturally slow down as he ages, and he may be exercising less now. Dental problems can cause weight loss if it’s painful for your dog to eat. In either case, see your vet to rule out serious problems and to find out how to adjust his diet and exercise schedule to something more age-appropriate.

A haze over the eyes: A bluish haze over your dog’s eyes does not affect his sight and is a harmless sign of aging. However, a white haze over his eyes could be a symptom of cataract. See your vet immediately.

Unexplained barking or a slower response to commands: If you find you need to repeat commands to your dog, when you didn’t have to previously, or if he barks or appears startled for no reason, he may have hearing problems.

Problems with vision: You may not even notice that your dog’s vision is changing if it happens slowly. Sight-impaired or blind dogs generally adjust well to the loss of their vision. However, quickly or slowly it may happen, once you notice, take your dog to the vet to make sure it’s not a sign of anything serious. Also, as with hearing loss, be more attentive when walking your dog. He may become disoriented or afraid more easily now in unfamiliar environments.

Lumpy fatty deposits: These may or may not be harmless. It’s important to see your vet to find out if they are lipomas, which are benign fatty tumors that come with age.

A change in coat texture and colour: Dogs lose the lustre and colour of their coats as they age. Brushing and grooming your dog often can help him maintain the shine in his coat. However, if you notice a darkening and dryness in his skin that doesn’t improve with treatment, see your vet, as it may be a sign of hypothyroidism, which is treatable.

A heavier sleep: Older dogs sleep more soundly and more hours than young dogs. Make sure you don’t use this as an excuse not to walk him! Older dogs still need to exercise, albeit in smaller but more frequent sessions.

Canine confusion: Dogs sometimes develop age-related dementia, as humans do. He may be more short-tempered, confused, or appear not to know familiar people or places. See your vet if your dog is behaving differently than he used to behave.

Slowing the aging process

You can ease your dog into a happy old age, where he needn’t feel any different than he did before. Here are important tips on keeping your elderly dog in young-dog shape:

 

  • Safety is most important: Your dog can hurt himself more easily now, as he may not be able to move, see or hear as well as he used to. Watch for hazards in your yard and home, and if you let your dog run free at dog parks, make sure he doesn’t get knocked over by a rambunctious pup.
  • Watch your dog’s weight: Your dog should always have a noticeable waist.
  • Take care of his teeth: Be sure to brush his teeth regularly, and give him snacks that are specifically designed to keep his teeth clean while he chews. Consult your vet for a thorough oral care regimen.
  • Feed him the appropriate dog food, and only dog food: (Unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.) A balanced diet is vital for a dog to stay healthy. Also, measure his food to make sure you’re not feeding him too much or too little.
  • Get your dog vaccinated and visit the veterinarian regularly: When your dog starts exhibiting the signs of aging, it’s time to start seeing the vet every six months. (However, he does not need to be vaccinated every six months.)
  • Give supplements and medication only as prescribed by your vet: Some supplements may help him stay alert and healthy, but don’t take guesses about your dog’s health. Your vet will know what’s appropriate in the right doses for his age and breed.
  • Exercise your dog regularly: The amount and type of exercise he requires depends on the size and/or breed of dog. It helps him stay limber and also gives him a chance to relieve himself, which he needs to do more often now that he’s older. Try shorter, more frequent walks.
  • Stimulate your dog’s intellect: New toys, new walking routes, and new training challenges all help him exercise his brain and stay interested.

If we’re lucky, all our dogs will become happy, healthy old dogs. With the right care, you can make sure your dog has many happy days ahead!