Preventing and Managing Senior Dog Health Issues

Dog health issues inevitably increase as your dog gets older. A large breed dog is often considered senior when he is only 8 or 9 years old while younger dogs usually aren't considered senior until they are 10 to 12. Regardless, your responsibility to your senior dog increases since it's up to you to ease the symptoms of old age.

Managing Joint Problems

As your dog gets older, he is more likely to suffer from joint problems such as hip dysplasia and arthritis. Unless you opt for surgery, there isn't much you can do to prevent this. However, there are ways to ease your dog's symptoms.

Provide him with thick, comfortable bedding, which will ease pressure on his joints when he's lying down. Heated and water beds are also available to relieve joint pain.

Don't expect him to jump in your car or walk down large flights of stairs. Avoid stairs where possible and provide him with ramps to get on and off furniture as well as in and out of the car.

Exercise him regularly but not to excess. Senior dogs benefit more from short, regular exercise than long weekend hikes followed by a week of little exercise. Try to provide your dog with daily exercise and don't push him.

Improving Diet

Obesity can complicate any problem associated with age, so reduce your dog's calorie intake. Feed a high-quality diet made from high-quality protein sources, not meat byproducts which have little nutritional value. An improved diet will reduce health problems.

Read food labels and don't feed anything made of cheap filler such as corn or wheat. A homecooked or raw diet provides high-quality, human-grade ingredients without harmful preservatives and food coloring. A high-quality kibble diet will provide that as well.

Liver and kidney problems, which are common with old age, are aided by a high-quality diet. It's also important to add high-quality fiber sources such as ground fresh vegetables, apples or oat bran.

Managing Vision and Hearing Problems

As your dog grows older, his eyes and ears will not function as well as they once did. As your dog's hearing starts to fail, he may be more easily startled by you stepping over him while he sleeps so move around him slowly and touch him lightly to alert him of your presence. Use hand signals with training to improve communication.

As his vision fails, try not to make dramatic changes to furniture in the house. He will learn his way around by routine so if you do make changes, lead him through the house on the leash a few times so he becomes accustomed. Be aware of things he may bump into on walks and realize that he may be more easily frightened at night when his vision is even worse.

Dogs face many challenges as they grow older, but you can help ease the transition by providing them with a high-quality diet, regular exercise and regular veterinary visits. Brush your dog daily to keep his skin enzymes stimulated and brush his teeth regularly. Just providing him with extra cuddle time will reduce his stress and improve his quality of life.