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The Aging Doggie

WassermanThe aging processes we see in dogs are the same difficulties we humans also suffer from.   "Wait a minute, isn't age just a number?"   Well it is in some ways, but the aging process is inevitable and will vary in each individual pet depending on: breed, genetics, preexisting conditions and injuries, physical and emotional environment, diet, etc...

There are many physical changes that you as an owner will see in your aging dog.  Some of the aging changes can be noticed from ages 5-7 years and older. When compared to a youthful dog, an elderly dog will experience changes in:

Arthritis:  The most common reason older pets do not "get around" like they used to. The wear and tear on joint surfaces can really restrict movement and be a sense of discomfort and pain.

  • Treatment: Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, and MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) supplements which assist in decreasing inflammation and improving the body's ability to repair and strengthen tissues, decrease  pain and improve resistance to joint stress;  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; steroids; Exercise to tolerance and physical ability; Chiropractic care to the aging spinal vertebra to remove fixations/subluxations.

Behavior:  An older pet may withdraw, appear edgy or nervous, lack of awareness and mental alertness decreases along with the senses; hearing, vision, smell, taste become impaired.

  • Treatment:  Lots of patience, reassurance, and quality time spent with your dog; don't change activity or play routine; Anipryl® or other drugs, C0q10, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Vitamin supplements, may be helpful in assisting better mental acuity in older dogs.

Circulatory:   The ability to exchange and deliver oxygenated blood as efficiently may be compromised by the aging process due to changes in heart rhythm, cardiac output changes, blood pressure and blood vessel changes.

  • Treatment:  Six month to yearly exams with blood pressure checks; medications to assist cardiac patients; special diets with restricted salt content; proper amounts of exercise to tolerance.

Digestive:  Movement of food along the digestive tract may be slowed which results in constipation and other digestive pathologies.  Digestive enzymes from the stomach and pancreas often are not secreted in proper amounts to fully digest the food.  This results in loose stools and a decrease in nutrient uptake. Occasional incontinence of urine and bowel can occur due to neurological changes and bladder and bowel tone changes.

  • Treatment:  Exams to rule out intestinal blockage, parasites, bacteria, or viral origin; nutrient supplements to aid in digestion and improve absorption of food nutrients. A good organic natural dog food, probiotics, etc...

Eyes:  Glaucoma and cataracts may occur in which certain breeds have a greater tendency to develop.

  • Treatment:  Yearly exam to measure the eye pressure and check for other abnormalities of the eye; lenses with cataracts can be removed by veterinarian ophthalmologists'; don't add or move furniture that your dog is use to moving around as this will make it difficult for the pet to break its life pattern of where things are in your home.

Kidneys:  As the pet ages, the ability to filter the blood from toxins and normal metabolism may become compromised resulting in Uremic Poisoning.  This usually progresses slowly as the dog begins to lose interest in food, drinks more water, urinates more frequently, and eventually begins to vomit due to the nausea.

  • Treatment: Special diets can help prolong a pet's time and have less stress on the kidneys. Low protein diets are not a cure but can help make the pet feel better.  Fresh filtered or bottled water to avoid toxins and imbalanced minerals form the tap.

Metabolism Rate: The chemical, hormonal, physiological process can decreases by 30% or more.

  • Treatment: Since the chemical reactions that combine to keep the pet healthy are slowed down, every 6-12 month blood tests are essential to check for thyroid, kidney, adrenal, liver, blood cell function, etc... Thyroid medication or other supplemental medication may be needed.

Skin and Coat:  The skin is more susceptible to infection, less elasticity, and becomes thinner.

  • Treatment:  Organic natural dog food; EPA/DHA supplements; daily brushing and grooming; bathing per breed requirements.

Teeth:  Infected gums and teeth can be a painful site, but also an infected mouth can seed bacteria into the blood stream to be carried throughout the body resulting in heart and kidney pathology making the pet very ill.

  • Treatment: Yearly exam which may include a dental cleaning with tooth extractions if needed.   Antibiotics may be requirement after any dental procedures in an infected mouth environment. Proper oral hygiene in pets is essential and can be performed weekly or more if needed, by the owner, if brushing of teeth is tolerated by the pet.

Please see you veterinarian for any of the above conditions should one arise ASAP!

So, sit back, enjoy your pet....these unconditional souls were given by the great one above us, to love, protect, and care for.  Let your pet visit doctors as needed, enjoy retirement; collect social security, pensions, and coupons, be stubborn and finicky, and whine and bark when it wants to.... Ruff!..... 

Steven B. Wasserman, RN, DC, CVCP Serving the Long Beach/Orange County and surrounding areas.


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