by Stephanie Johnson, pet enthusiast
The sight of happy senior dogs warms the heart –especially when our buddies have weathered the years with us in good health.
But what age is old age for a dog? The average dog lives about 13 years. This varies widely by breed, of course. Smaller dogs can be considered senior dogs when they reach about 8 years and larger dogs, like Great Danes, by about age 5.
These short life spans mean our friends’ joints, eyes, hearing, energy levels, and immune systems weaken much sooner than we would like.
Fortunately, there are many steps we can take to keep our pals healthier as they age…and help them when they get sick.
Here are five good places to start.
Get a yearly veterinarian checkup. This will let you know what health issues your dog may be facing. You might consider finding a holistic veterinarian who knows about natural foods, herbs, supplements, and acupuncture (yes, the American Veterinary Medical Association acknowledges acupuncture has benefits for dogs).
For information on finding a holistic vet, here are some helpful websites: American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
Boost immunity. Healthy, nutritious foods and supplements are keys to maintaining healthy immune function in your dog. Environmental toxins and nutritional imbalances can suppress the immune system. Premium pet foods rich in vitamins A, B6 and B12, C, E, and minerals such as zinc, copper, and selenium are essential.
Also, as dogs age, their metabolism slows down and weight gain may become a concern. Incorporating crunchy treats such as carrots, apples, and green peppers into your canine companion’s diet may add good nutrition without high calories. In an effort to maintain healthy digestion, a spoonful of plain yogurt at each meal may help your dog by maintaining healthy intestinal bacteria.
Think comfort. All dogs—whether young or old—will appreciate you providing them with a soft, warm bed so they get a good night’s sleep. If you search the Internet for orthopedic beds for dogs, you can get anything you want: Large beds, small beds, luxury beds, log furniture beds, dog couches…you can even get your dog a water bed. Now that’s pampering!
Rubber kennel flooring is also a good alternative to cold concrete if your dog is outside. And it can provide a non-slip surface for dogs that have stiff, creaky joints.
Joint care. Older dogs frequently experience joint discomfort in their hips and back legs. Because medications have drawbacks—and glucosamine and chondroitin can take a long time to work (if they work at all)—you may find an alternative with DGP.
Recommended reading. Caring for Your Aging Dog by Janice Borzendowski can guide you in doing your part to keep your aging dog happier and healthier. And Senior Dogs for Dummies was written by Susan McCullough, a two-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell award for excellence in writing about dogs.