How to help older dogs live healthier lives: Open Discussion about different factors that can contribute to or take away from the longevity of our pets.
Obesity, just like humans may lead to other metabolic diseases such as diabetes, early renal failure, fatty liver disease, abnormal fat deposits around the heart, high blood pressure and decreased exercise tolerance. Excessive weight also damages joints and tendons.
To help geriatric dogs, we need to understand what they are experiencing; loss of vision, smell and hearing. They may also be suffering from joint pain due from arthritic changes. So to help them, the focus must be on helping all aspects of their aging process.
Mobility: With decreased mobility help them by placing yoga mats down on slippery floors or rubber backed rugs. Especially at the foot of the stairs so when they come down they don’t slide onto the slippery floor. Use supplements to ease the deterioration of their joints. Supplements such as glucosamine (for dogs, not humans)to help protect the joint cartilage and Omega 3 to decrease joint inflammation. Limit excessive walks, let your dog walk you so when they tire you know to return to home. When you are unable to take them for walks as their mobility has decreased then play indoors with them. Rolling a ball to them, allowing them to go for it on their own terms and time. Hide treats under bowls in various places in the house for them to get up and find. Play hide and seek with them to motivate them to get up and find you. Try to interact with them making them move for at least 20 minutes non stop in one session to help with cardiac out put.
When buying supplements to help with arthritis, it is best to check with your veterinarian on which ones to purchase. Most supplements are not regulated by the FDA or DEA thus ingredient quality various with product. Your veterinarian will know which ones are safe and effective for your pet.
When a dogs arthritis becomes more advance, they are slower to rise. They may seek out areas to lay which are protected such as under a table or bed. They may also avoid interaction with people or other pets in the fear of being petted where they hurt or of getting bumped. If the dog is starting to have these symptoms, it is time to incorporate pain medication to their daily regime of health care.
The use of NSAIDs (non steroidal, non aspirin, anti-inflammatory) medications. They are to be in conjunction with the supplements mentioned above. Your veterinarian will prescribe the correct NSAID for your dog since there various ones on the market. Blood work is required for continual use of these products to be sure your dog’s liver is able to metabolize the drug. The use of narcotic pain control drugs are also an option your veterinarian may suggest. Again, narcotic pain control medication can be used with the supplements and NSAIDS. The goal is to relieve all pain which will allow your pet to live a comfortable and quality life.
Other then supplements and medications, acupuncture & cold laser therapy are remarkable additions to be used for pain control and help increase motility. Underwater treadmills, electrode-stimulation and full body massages due wonders for aging pets. There are certified animal acupuncture/cold laser therapists available in the area. These facilities provide the finest in care for your aging dog. They will help with strengthening your dogs muscles and stretching their tendons. Part of their programs is to teach the owner how to help their pets at home with personalized exercises and massages. (Pawsitive Steps Rehab in Rochester Hills offers clients numerous programs to help their aging pet.) There are some on-line dog massage classes clients can enroll in, but it is advised to first have their pet evaluated by a certified therapist. After the evaluation the client will know the correct technique of massage to use with their pet.
Most pet owners are not aware that their dog is going deaf, until it is totally deaf. Start watching your aging dog for signs hearing loss. Do they hear the garage door opening like they used to? Do they hear another dog barking outside like they use to? Usually dogs lose the low pitch sounds first. Once aware that your dog is losing its hearing, contact your veterinarian to have your pet’s ears examined. The veterinarian will exam the ears for any sign of infection or swelling prior to attributing the deafness to old age. Once it is established your dog’s hearing is gone, be conscience of the fact. So when approaching your dog, make a loud noise this will alert your pet that you are approaching or tap on the floor so their feel the vibration. Alerting them of your approach will lessen the stress of being startled and avoid them biting out of fear.
Dogs sense of smell is 800 times more then humans, but as they age their sense of smell decreases. Dogs identify their surroundings by smell. Thus, lost of smell is hard on our aging pets. Be aware of this.
Like humans, our dogs eyes also change with age. Their lens thicken and can develop into cataracts. Most pet owners will notice their dog is hesitant to go down stairs or go outside at dusk without adequate lighting. We don’t prescribe bifocals for pets, but this is just what they need to see. So provide adequate light for them to go down the stairs or outside. With advancing cataracts, it is best to have the lens surgically removed. Your dog will be able to have restored vision once the hard calcified lens is removed.
Dementia is also common with aging pets. With the loss of hearing, vision and smell, dementia seems to come on quickly. Common signs are disorientation when placed in a new environment, trying to go out a door on the wrong side, wandering at night, staring at a wall and less interaction with owners. There are now effective, safe medications that aging pets can be placed on to slow down dementia. There are now some commercial dog foods with additive supplements to help stimulate the pet to be more alert and cognitive. Playing food finding games and hide & seek, also help to stimulate dogs to keep their brains active and more alert.
Any pet over the age of 7 years should have regular visits to the veterinarian. At this age, settle changes start occurring within their bodies. Your veterinarian will recommend baseline blood work to evaluate organ functions. Aging process will be discussed as well as specific medical recommendations. Yearly exams are recommended to have continual evaluations of body functions and pain control. The veterinarians goal for an aging dog is providing comfort and the necessities to live a quality life well into their golden years.