New tricks for OLD DOGS
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 www.petmd.com.