New tricks for OLD DOGS

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - HEALTH INTEL - — DEBORAH BUSEMEYER

Like hu­mans, pets can ex­pe­ri­ence a host of prob­lems as they get older — but there are ways to help your beloved com­pan­ions avoid com­mon ail­ments such as arthri­tis and ways to find dis­eases early so they can be eas­ily treated.

Keep­ing your older dog at a healthy weight is the best thing you can do, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Mike Dobesh, a ve­teri­nar­ian at Smith Ve­teri­nary Hos­pi­tal in Santa Fe for 26 years.

Dogs are con­sid­ered se­niors at age 8 to 10, de­pend­ing on the breed. Dobesh rec­om­mends an­nual blood pan­els to check ag­ing pets for po­ten­tial is­sues, such as thy­roid, adrenal gland, kid­ney or liver prob­lems. Older an­i­mals can de­velop can­cer more com­monly as well.

Older dogs can have low thy­roid lev­els, re­sult­ing in lethargy, weight gain and a dull coat. This is­sue can be re­solved with med­i­ca­tion that costs about 50 cents a day. Vets also have an ef­fec­tive treat­ment for Cush­ing’s dis­ease, an adrenal gland im­bal­ance that causes dogs to drink ex­tra wa­ter, pant, de­velop pot­bel­lies and uri­nate more fre­quently.

The most com­mon prob­lem that ag­ing dogs ex­pe­ri­ence is arthri­tis, which causes stiff­ness, sore­ness and dif­fi­culty mov­ing around. Big­ger dogs, such as Ger­man shep­herds and Labrador re­triev­ers, are more prone to arthri­tis.

“A lot of the dogs we see are over­weight,” Dobesh said. “Dogs do so much bet­ter when they are at a healthy weight and get good, con­sis­tent ac­tiv­ity. It is one of the best ways to pre­vent or de­lay arthri­tis.”

Glu­cosamine and nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments, in­clud­ing fish oil (which has been shown to have anti-in­flam­ma­tory ef­fects), are com­mon treat­ments for an arthritic dog. More ag­gres­sive treat­ments are pos­si­ble, de­pend­ing on the dog’s level of dis­com­fort. Some own­ers opt to give their pets pre­scrip­tive an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory medicine and/or pain re­liev­ers. Some ve­teri­nary clin­ics, in­clud­ing Smith Ve­teri­nary Hos­pi­tal, of­fer acupunc­ture — a fairly com­mon choice that tends to work well for spinal arthri­tis. The best thing to do is talk with your vet about the op­tions avail­able for your dog.

For more in­for­ma­tion about se­nior pet care, visit

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