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Caring for your older dog

One of the sad realities for a dog owner is that your dog will probably reach old age long before you do. Dogs need more attention as they grow older, but they can still experience a healthy, enjoyable and fulfilling life in their later years.

The most important practice is providing good care for your dog before the golden years arrive:

  • Regular visits to the vet’s office will help find medical conditions that could become pronounced in old age. Because many medical conditions seen in older pets are very manageable, the earlier they are detected the better. Ask your veterinarian how often your dog needs a physical exam and/or lab work.
  • Good dental care throughout your dog’s life means that your dog will be much less likely to suffer from gingivitis, gum disease and damage to internal organs.
  • Regular exercise will make sure that your dog is still in good shape and is less likely to become overweight.

Aging problems aren't unique. In old age, dogs suffer from many of the same ailments that people do. Many older dogs suffer from arthritis or general muscle stiffness. You can help by giving them time to loosen up before their walk. Providing your dog with a nice soft dog bed will also make standing up and lying down easier.

A warm bed helps. A dog bed will also provide your dog with extra warmth when asleep. As dog’s age they lose some ability to control their body temperature. Be mindful of leaving your dog anywhere that he could overheat or be too cold.

Natural oils are reduced. Your dog’s skin and hair may suffer as the body produces less natural oils. Continued brushing will help stimulate the skin to produce the oily secretion. You should also talk to your vet about a shampoo or skin treatment that helps moisturize the skin and soothe any irritation.

A dog’s hearing or sight may start to fail with old age. It can be hard to detect. Your dog is familiar with its surroundings and will have adjusted as senses deteriorate. If your dog is losing sight, avoid making any radical changes to the layout of the house. An old dog can be quite adept at navigating by smell and memory. Also, be wary of your dog’s access to stairs because poor eyesight can present danger.

Consider hand signals. If your dog is losing hearing, you may have to start communicating with hand signals instead of voice commands. Old dogs can learn new tricks, and they’ll enjoy the attention and mental stimulation.

Accidents may become a problem as bladder muscles weaken. Pay extra attention because your dog will need to be let outdoors more promptly and frequently to avoid house soiling.

Aging dogs require fewer calories to be well nourished. Also, they are more susceptible to gaining weight because of decreased activity. Consider asking your vet about the appropriate Hill’s® Science Diet® Mature Adult dog food.

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