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Caring for an Older Dog.

As dogs begin to age, it is important for the owner to be aware of their pet's health and changing needs. Dogs age at different rates depending on breed, size, and environment and over all health. Signs of aging include deeper sleep, graying fur - particularly around the face, and reduced energy level. Noticing your dog's aging process is important as many problems can be avoided with good care.

Basic care for an older dog includes regular grooming, monitoring of weight and diet, examination of teeth and eyes, and protection from fleas and ticks. Grooming becomes increasingly important because it helps stimulate the production of natural oils to the dog's skin, which often slows down with age.

An older dog's activity level often decreases as well. A reduction in food, or switching to a senior dog food is often helpful in keeping the pet at a healthy weight. An overweight dog is susceptible to a greater number of health problems than an average weight dog. Also, the dog will be much more comfortable at a healthy weight. At this weight, a dog will move better and experience fewer aches and pains.

Check your dog's teeth and gums periodically for abnormalities. Tooth loss and gum disease are not uncommon and may affect eating patterns. Catching a dental problem early will usually result in a fairly simple treatment and a bigger problem will be avoided. Also check your dog's eyes. Some dog's eyes will start to get cloudy and vision may decrease. Keeping fleas and ticks and other parasites off your dog becomes increasingly important with advancing years. Parasites can carry diseases that are easier for a young dog to fight off than an older dog.

Daily care also changes as your dog ages. Try to give your dog a place to sleep that is away from draft and is not too hot or cold. A bed or mat will help keep your dog comfortable. If your dog begins to exhibit mobility problems, consider blocking off difficult areas such as stairs to keep him from getting hurt. Keeping a daily routine will also help comfort your dog. Don't punish your dog if he isn't capable of sticking to his housebreaking or if he is agitated when woken up suddenly. This is most likely an element of age and not a behavioral problem. Regular checkups with the vet become more important, since older dogs are more susceptible to ailments and early treatment can keep minor problems from becoming major ones.

Specific ailments to look for in older dogs are bladder and kidney problems. An older dog may need to be taken outdoors more often, but if there is a significant change or control issues when urinating have it examined by a vet. If your dog is experiencing aches and pains; particularly after sleeping, have him checked for arthritis and hip dysplasia. If you notice your dog having trouble breathing seek help immediately. This is a sign of a heart or lung problem. Checking for growths under the skin is important too. Many dogs will have growths, usually they are fat deposits, but there is a potential for cysts or tumors to develop. Catching these early is imperative to your dog's health. With a little extra care and attention your dog can have a long, healthy and happy life.

 

 


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