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Dogs & Aging

Dogs, like humans, are living longer as better health care becomes available. A large breed dog generally lives about 8-12 years, while smaller dogs average 12-16 years. It is a sobering fact that our beloved companions age quicker than we do. Your pet will naturally slow down as they age. They may walk, rather than run up the stairs. Long hikes become short walks, and they tire of chasing the ball before you tire of throwing it. Vision and hearing senses become less acute. Hair may turn gray and skin becomes dry. The older dog may not tolerate the same level of noise and activity as before. They need to eliminate more often and may have elimination accidents inside the house. Older dogs are more susceptible to diseases; arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and kidney/heart/liver conditions may arise. To help care for your dog as it ages, first develop a ?baseline? for your pet. Your veterinarian can do a physical exam and lab work that will establish a snapshot of what?s normal for your pet. This ?snapshot? of the dog?s current condition gives you a measure for when health problems arise. Good nutrition is vital for your older dog. Obesity can become a problem with less activity. Problems with digestion and certain diseases can be avoided by providing a high-quality food designed for older dogs. Pay extra attention to your dog?s dental health. Regular brushing is important for the lifetime of the dog. Chew toys, marrow bones, and hard dog biscuits will help to clean the teeth. Ask your veterinarian about tarter control. Exercise is an important part of your dog?s health. Keep in mind that you would not expect your 80 year old grandmother to keep up with you while jogging. Likewise, your older dog may need a slower pace and shorter walks. Swimming is an excellent exercise for older dogs. Additional hints for your older dog include: install a ramp for the stairs or high places like your bed/couch; learn dog first aid ? brittle bones and tender skin have more injuries; learn the signs of dog diseases and watch for changes from his/her baseline; keep vaccinations up to date and ask your veterinarian if anything should be changed or added; be extra vigilant about fleas and ticks because their bites are more serious to the older dog; keep up with regular grooming and, when you brush, be alert for bumps (tumors or growths) and any skin problems; trim the nails more often in older dogs; add ?skid-free? coverings to slippery floors; raise the feeding bowls for large dogs and secure slippery bowls. Yes, our canine companions are living longer, healthier lives. It is up to us to provide the extra care and comfort to keep them active and pain-free as they reach the ?golden years.?

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