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Caring for Aging Dogs

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Just as advances in medical technology ensure that our human love ones live longer lives, so do advances in veterinary technology for dogs. As a result, there is growing interest among dog owners as to what they should do to make sure that their pets have a happy and healthy life in their older years. You can even take preventative measures to ensure long term health by making sure your dog is fed a healthy, nutrient rich diet and receives regular exercise.

Signs Your Dog is Aging

There are a number of aging signs that will alert you to the special health needs of your dog. Some general signs of aging include a decreased activity level, increased sleep, and less enthusiasm for play and walks.

Some other signs include sensitivity to extreme temperature. Older dogs will try to avoid very hot or cold weather. You will notice you dog will prefer areas with moderate temperature, avoiding the outdoors during summer or winter, and lying on a carpeted area rather than bare floors.

As with humans, hearing loss can become a problem for older dogs. They will seem distant and disobedient but in reality, they are having difficulty hearing you. Their skin and coat will also change. They’ll lose the ability to produce natural oils and wounds will not heal as quickly. Finally, with advancing age, kidney, heart, and liver function will diminish. Your dog may also lose bladder control and his immune system will not be as effective for fighting disease. For these reasons, it is important to have more regular veterinary visits and to pay close attention to changes in your dog’s habits and health.

Dealing with Old Age

The best way to help your dog transition into old age is to make that transition as easy and comfortable as possible. You want to make sure that you don’t allow your dog to become lethargic and lazy while remembering that he won’t be as energetic as he once was.

You’ll notice your dog may wake up with more stiffness in the mornings. Give him a chance to walk it off rather than pestering him to get up and get going. He might need a bit of extra time, but once he gets going, he should be fine. Also, make up a comfortable bed for you dog. This will give him somewhere to rest that is warm and cozy.

You also might notice that your dog’s skin becomes dryer. You’ll want to brush more frequently and switch to a moisturizing/gentle shampoo. Keep in mind that bathing too often will actually worsen dry skin so you don’t want to be too obsessive about bathing. Regular flea and tick checks are very important also. With diminished immune responses, an older dog is more susceptible to the effects of a tick bite.

Your dog’s diet should also change as he gets older. Because he is likely to be exercising less, your dog will also need to eat less. If you continue feeding your dog the same diet as when he was active and exercising frequently, he may become fat. Speak to a veterinarian about the best diet for your aging dog.

See also; Dog Cognitive Disfunction

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