Katie Barber is a Registered Veterinary Technician with over 10 years of experience. Working closely with patients and their owners the past 12 years has made her sensitive to the struggle many pet owners face trying to perform home procedures. ‘Critter Care by KT’ brings RVT skills to your home to assist patients and owners with procedures from rehabilitation to nail trims.
Each dog is different but over the age of 7 years of age all dogs are considered to be seniors. Dogs are extremely loyal and smart. They can do remarkable things for people, unfortunately aren’t capable of doing much for themselves. Now entering their golden years it is now time for us to assist them and maintain their quality of life.
Senior dogs are entering a stage of life in which the aging can begin to affect the body from the inside out. Even if your dog appears perfectly healthy annual health exams with your Veterinarian are ideal for detecting abnormalities early. By picking up changes in the body we can help prevent or prolong minor issues from becoming major issues, and keep your dog happy and healthy.
Metabolic changes occur as your dog ages; daily energy requirement may decrease by as much as 12-13%. This means they are at a higher risk of obesity and other metabolic diseases. Switching to a mature dog diet is a great idea. You want to look for low fat, low phosphorus, low sodium, and a good high quality source of protein. Please be sure to speak to your Veterinarian for assistance when choosing the right diet for your pet.
Don’t forget to discuss TREATS! Unfortunately, many dog treats are just as unhealthy as the “junk food” humans consume! Snacks from the table are not balanced at all and may contain high levels of fat and sodium. Water-based vegetables, like fresh or frozen green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumber make good snacks for senior dogs.
Remember to exercise. Not only will exercise help burn calories, it strengthens muscles, enhances circulation and improves your dog’s heart and brain function. When we get out of regular exercise habits it can be hard to get back to it. Shorter, more frequent walks may be better than going for a five-mile run. Gradually build up the duration and exertion of your dog’s activity level.
Don’t forget to clip toenails regularly as long toenails may cause your dog to stand and walk abnormally and can result in pain, even accelerate and exacerbate arthritis. If arthritis pain is getting in the way, work with your Veterinarian to help relieve the pain. There are a range of treatments to choose from such as rehabilitation exercises, massage, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, supplements and anti-inflammatories. Inactivity promotes a downhill cascade of events that is just about guaranteed to negatively impact your dog’s longevity.
As your dog ages they can experience loss of hearing and/or vision. Teaching hand signals at an early age will pay off as your dog begins to experience age-related hearing loss. Blind and deaf dogs can still have a great quality of life as long as you are willing to accept the challenge and assist your pet through the transition period. A dog’s nose is amazing, they adapt and are able to navigate well. (check out the Facebook Support Group Blind Dogs).
Compared to young dogs, seniors have less physical reserve and are more likely to become ill. Whereas a 24-hour “wait and watch” approach might be reasonable for the youngster, waiting this long with an older dog may have serious consequences.
When you understand the life changes our dog will go through or is going through and accept that we will need to change our habits to fit their new needs; you will improve the quality and longevity of your dog’s life. If you ever have any questions or concerns, you should always have your Vet’s number within reach (put it in your phone right now) – they are your best resource to ensure the best health and well being of your pets. Being a responsible dog owner can be hard work, but no one has ever said it wasn’t worth it.