Senior Dog Care: Caring for Older Dogs

Dogs age as humans do. They often experience mental and physical declines. Caregiving for an elderly dog is different than caring for a young, energetic dog. Being aware of your dog’s limitations is a crucial first step to making sure her golden years are truly golden.

Visits to the vet for senior dogs

There are many things you can do for your dog to stay as healthy and comfortable as possible as she grows older. Scheduling regular veterinary visits is one of the most important things you can do for your dog. We recommend senior pets get a checkup about every six months. Dogs age faster than people, so a 12-year old dog who has a veterinarian visit every six months is equivalent to a 75 year-old woman who sees her doctor about once every three years.

In the case of an elderly pet, the old saying that prevention is better than cure may be true. It is the same for us all.

Exercise and healthy weight for older dogs

It is important to keep your pet healthy and active. We all know what the consequences of being overweight are for our health, but this is not true for our dogs. Obesity in dogs can lead to joint stress, osteoarthritis and difficulty breathing. Give your dog healthy food, but don’t give up on the treats. Your veterinarian can help you decide what food to feed your senior dog.

Regular exercise is important for senior dogs’ nervous and musculoskeletal system. Talk to your vet about the best activity level for your senior dog in order to prevent pain and mobility problems.

Glucosamine to aid an elderly dog

Many supplements claim to be able to relieve joint pain in older dogs. One of these supplements is well-known to most: glucosamine with or without chondroitin. Although some brands are more effective than others in delivering health benefits, data supporting these claims is not available. A December 2010 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), published a weak clinical evidence supporting the use of chondroitin and glucosamine for dogs with osteoarthritis.

FDA considers chondroitin and glucosamine nutritional supplements. Regulators have not accepted any standards for the potency, purity or safety of products. Independent analysis has also shown wide variations in products.

Although these products are generally well tolerated by dogs, cats, and horses, hypersensitivity reactions may occur because many of them are often derived naturally. Some minor side effects, such as flatulence and stool softening, could occur. Ask your veterinarian before giving these supplements to your pet.

Other supplements and treatments

Other supplements such as green-lipped mussel and turmeric are also available as “nutraceuticals for dogs”. Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which may be helpful. Older dogs may benefit from other treatments such as acupuncture or low-energy laser therapy.