For a variety of reasons (including better nutrition, advances in veterinary medicine, and a more health-conscious American public) domestic dogs are living longer lives. As a result, veterinarians and dog owners are just now learning to manage an array of canine geriatric problems.
For older dogs, three main factors can greatly influence longevity:
- Diet and weight. Being overweight is not merely a cosmetic problem; it has very real detrimental effects on your pet’s health, including high blood pressure and heart disease, arthritis and joint pain, diabetes, kidney disease, and some forms of cancer. You can short-circuit many of these issues by closely monitoring both the type of diet and the amount of food you give your dog. Also, ask your veterinarian if he can recommend supplements that may promote health in the joints and other areas.
- Exercise. Your dog needs to be active every day. Be reasonable about how much physical activity your older dog can handle, but even moderate exercise helps to keep the weight down and the muscles and joints supple. Even for the geriatric canine, a few minutes of regular walking, playing, and exercise can make a big difference.
- Regular veterinary care. Take your pet to the veterinarian at least once a year (or every six months for dogs who have conditions that need monitoring. Early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to successful treatment for so many geriatric health issues. Also your veterinarian may dispense medications to counter underlying conditions and to keep your aging pet comfortable longer.