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The basics of senior dog care become a necessity that we must educate ourselves about as our dogs get older. Dogs age too, like humans and all other living beings. And as they age, their needs also change. Their general health and fitness starts to deteriorate and their nutrition requirements also make a gradual shift. They may also experience several physical and internal ailments which can keep them from living their last days to the fullest. When your dog gets older, this is definitely the time for getting serious about your dog’s needs and paying more attention to his daily health and nutrition.
Senior dog ages vary among different breeds. Dogs that are around 7 to 8 years old are considered senior among normal size breeds, but in bigger dogs, senior years begin at around 5 years old.
The Basics of Senior Dog Care
The following are the most common problems that develop as a dog ages:
- Joint pains and arthritis
- Gray hair
- Loss or lack of appetite
- Slower movement and reduced physical strength
- Less activity
- Possible old age diseases
As dogs age, they can develop diseases and illnesses, which is just a normal part of the process. The most common illnesses are arthritis and cancer. Serious dental problems can also occur, even though these could also occur at earlier ages.
For dental problems, they may experience symptoms like bad breath, swollen gums, tartar, periodontal diseases, or eating less or losing appetite. Some dogs even try to swallow their food without chewing it, and this can lead to some digestion problems. A potentially serious side effect of dental problems is when it has bacterial infections. The bacteria can enter the dog’s system, into the blood stream, and eventually become a disease, affecting its organs. This is why regular brushing of your dog’s teeth especially in senior years helps prevent such ailments. You should also check his teeth regularly if he has tartar or swollen gums, or any of the symptoms mentioned above. Consult a local vet if your dog does have really bad teeth, gum, or mouth problems. Vets can clean up their teeth and may even remove decayed teeth.
Cancer can also occur in dogs, just as it does in humans. It starts out as a malignant tumor in a dog’s body part and spreads through the bloodstream, infecting the whole system. These tumors should be removed, but they can also reoccur depending on the situation. Dogs with cancer are often treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They need really good care, just like humans who have cancer.
Last, but not the least, dogs can have arthritis and joint pains too. It prevents them from being active and doing physical activities. Though it is not curable, painkillers can help them bear the pain.
Older dogs also change in nutritional requirements. Dogs with diseases may need a special diet depending on their condition, as prescribed by your vet. For older dogs, wet food is generally recommended for better and easier digestion, as their internal digestive organs aren’t as good as when they were young. Antioxidants, vitamins, and food supplements can also help, provided that you consult your vet first before giving your dog some, as it may conflict with their general health, particularly if they are having some “old age” problems.