By Roscoe Johnston - loving, loyal senior canine to Dr. Paul Johnston
As a 12 year old English Setter to a loving outdoorsman, I spent my youth as an ambitious and athletic dog exploring Hants County’s countryside. While the memories of those extreme adventures still come to life in my dreams, I have settled into a happy and comfortable retirement. And, thanks to some healthy habits that I am about to share with you, I am thriving in my golden years.
1. Love me. Don’t overfeed me. I’ll be the first one to belly-up to the dinner table looking for pity and prime rib, but my owner knows that over feeding treats and table scraps will add risky pounds. Recent data shows that a staggering 53% of dogs are overweight. Obesity decreases a dog’s lifespan by two to five years, increases the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, and is the acute and chronic cause of orthopaedic problems. Show your dog real kindness by feeding a balanced diet in amounts appropriate to maintain your dog’s ideal weight.
2. Keep me moving. While I may not be accompanying my owner on his 10 km cross-country ski expeditions anymore, I still get plenty of low intensity exercise on our farm doing perimeter security checks and escorting vehicles up the drive way. As your dog ages, exercise is as important as ever to maintain physical and mental health. Be mindful though of the intensity and length of their physical activity. If you are unsure of how much and what kind of exercise your dog should get, ask your veterinarian. They can design a safe exercise program specific to your dog’s needs. Medications and supplements to reduce inflammation and pain, and improve mobility are available and may be prescribed.
3. Take me to the vet, often! - Unfortunately, us dogs age faster than our humans do and while our lives progress more quickly, serious medical conditions do too. Health exams for senior dogs are recommended every six months to ensure early prevention, detection and treatment of disease. Tests like routine blood work may also be recommended to ensure there are no clinically silent health abnormalities.
4. Take care of my smile. My vet says I have teeth of a three-year old, and that’s because I get regular dental treatments. One of the best things you can do for the long-term health and happiness of your dog is to perform routine dental care. Proper dental care can prolong the life of your pet by as much as 20% - that’s at least two years for dogs! Along with advising if your dog needs any dental treatments, your veterinarian can provide tips on at-home care.
5. Protect me from infectious and parasitic diseases. Just like human seniors, us seniors dogs become more susceptible, so routine vaccinations against infectious diseases are still an important part of disease prevention. Your vet can discuss with you specific vaccines for your dog’s current lifestyle and risk. And don’t forget, all dogs, regardless of age, need to be protected against parasites like fleas, ticks and worms.
6. Groom me regularly. Being a long haired dog, my coat get special attention. As I spend more time lying about, I’ve become predisposed to more matting of hair and longer, unruly nails. For some senior dogs, thinning skin can be more sensitive to irritation. Increased grooming not only promotes healthier hair and skin, but it also creates an opportunity for you to monitor your dog’s body condition.
7. Show me the love. The greatest need when caring for a senior dog is love and patience. Somedays it takes me a little longer to get out of bed in the morning and sometimes I can’t hear my family when they call for me. As your dog ages, he may not hear or see so well either. Us older dogs though are especially attuned to our owners - treasuring their companionship and attention. An evening by the fire surrounded by my family is just what the vet ordered for the mental health and emotional well-being of this old boy.
About the Author: As a father, companion, and sport dog, Roscoe continues to lead a charmed life with his adoring family on a horse farm in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia. This is Roscoe’s debut blog so please like, share and comment.
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