As our beloved companions enter the latter stages of their life it is important to ensure they remain as healthy as possible. The following lists some important points that as owners we can help to ensure our beloved pets grow old with dignity:
- Vaccinate you dog regularly – their immune system does wane as they age so an up-to date immunity against diseases such as Leptospirosis and Kennel Cough is important.
- Ensure your pet is regularly dewormed (including lungworm in those areas where it is prevalent) and has flea treatment regularly applied.
- Groom your dog frequently to prevent their hair coat from matting and check their nails regularly as excessive growth is a common ageing process.
- Always ensure your dog has plenty of fresh water available and ensure other pets do not prevent the more senior member of the pack from obtaining adequate food and water.
- Moderate exercise levels in accordance with your dogs age – it is some times better, especially in arthritic dogs, to walk your dog for shorter periods but more frequently; avoiding long walks that will put more strain on the joints and muscles. Swimming is also an excellent form of exercise which has a low impact on arthritic joints.
- When the weather is cold think about using coats and jackets for older dogs when walking and ensure your pet has a snug, warm bed for those damp days when their joints may ache.
- Weigh your dog regularly using the same scales and keep a record – the first symptom of many diseases will be weight loss and identifying this early will give your pet the best chance of stopping the progression of such diseases.
* Take your dog for regular checks at your local veterinary practice – 6 monthly is recommended as dogs age much quicker than humans – roughly 3-4 years every 6 months.
* Take your pet to your local veterinary practice should any of the following symptoms present:
- Increase in water intake or drinking behaviour
- Increase in urination or incontinence
- Weight loss
- Significant increase or decrease in appetite or not wanting to eat
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Straining or difficulty in passing urine and/or faeces
- Lameness or difficulty getting up in the morning
- Changes to vision or the appearance of the eyes
- Lumps or bumps developing
- Smelly breath, drooling from the mouth or obvious difficulty chewing especially dry food.
- Increasing size of the abdomen (tummy).
- Increasing inactivity or amount of time spent sleeping.
- Hair loss
- Persistent coughing or gagging.
- Excessive panting.
- Sudden collapse or weakness.
- Any seizures, convulsions or odd behaviours e.g. vacant expression, staring episodes
Leigh Sobye BVSc MRCVS