Senior Dog Care

Bad Dog Breath

Taking The Physiological Changes Of Aging Dogs Into Consideration

At Creekside Animal Hospital, we love providing senior dogs with the care and support they need to age gracefully and comfortably. We understand that the experience of caring for older dogs can be a tremendously rewarding one that enhances and enriches the lives of dogs themselves, as well as their human caretakers. We truly are dog people at heart. We love to lend insight and guidance into caring for older dogs.

It is important to remember that many physiological changes occur during the aging process your canine companion is experiencing. These include:

  • Reduced hearing
  • Changes in eyesight
  • Arthritis and muscle mass loss
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Cardiac and kidney disease
  • And more

Some or all of these symptoms may not become noticeable until your dog is very old. Our veterinarians are skilled at detecting subtle changes in a dog's body that can easily go unnoticed by its owner. Early detection of these changes can help prevent the progression of disease and minimize the suffering of a senior dog.

Schedule Regular Veterinarian Visits For Senior Dogs

Because many of these conditions will develop gradually, it can be difficult for an owner to notice the changes occurring. During the senior wellness exam, our doctors and staff will ask you questions that specifically target medical issues common to senior dogs. Working together with you, we will develop a great plan to ensure optimal health for your dog.

It is important to remember that the aging process is accelerated in dogs. Therefore, we recommend seeing all senior dogs at least twice a year.

Senior dog care visits provide an opportunity to discuss the well-being of your canine companion as he or she ages. This includes:

In addition, during a full physical examination for aging dogs we can look at:

  • Weight and Body Condition
  • Skin and Coat Quality
  • Mouth, Gums and Teeth
  • Ears and Eyes
  • Thyroid Gland
  • Heart and Circulatory System
  • Lungs and Nose
  • Abdomen
  • Joints and Muscles
  • Bloodwork
  • Any condition changes since the last visit

Body Condition Evaluations For Senior Dogs

Body condition evaluations are important parts of a senior dog care program. They can be crucial in determining whether your senior dog is overweight, underweight, or at an ideal body weight. Carrying extra weight is especially difficult for a senior dog and will impact the quality of its life. Any reduction in weight may be a sign of illness. We can also show you how to monitor your dog's body condition at home which may aid in assessing its condition between visits.

Making Good Food Choices For Senior Dogs

Canine nutrition is extremely important throughout the entirety of a dog's life. However, making sound senior dog food choices is an especially important facet of senior dog care. Because of decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism, aging dogs may need 20% fewer total calories than middle-aged adult dogs. However, some older dogs may not be able to assimilate proteins as well and may require additions in protein or change in the type of protein. Generally, aging dogs tend to gain weight, and as they do, senior dogs become at risk for possible health complications that did not plague them in adolescence. For example, it may take obese dogs longer for their blood glucose concentrations to return to normal. This disrupted carbohydrate metabolism can lead to diabetes.

This is why it is important to consult your veterinarian about the best senior dog food option for your canine companion. Specially formulated senior dog food is easier to digest, might also address liver, kidney or urinary issues, as well as the general nutritional needs specific to senior dogs.

Obesity in Dogs is a Health Epidemic

Featured Quote:

Dogs like to eat, and so they want more than they need.

Video Transcript:

This is Dr. Dave Dolan from Creekside Animal Hospital in the Woodlands-Tomball area. Today, we're going to talk about obesity and problems associated with obesity. Obviously, this is a sensitive subject, but it's important. We try not to blame, but instead, want to educate so that you can feed your pets more appropriately. Also, just so you know, over half the pets that I see are heavy or obese, so don't think that your pet is the only one if I tell you that your pet falls into one of these categories.

Obesity Can Lead to Diseases

First of all, let's talk about why an overweight pet is not as healthy as a pet who is an ideal weight.

Diseases directly or indirectly related to obesity are diabetes, heart disease, respiratory issues, exacerbation of arthritis, pancreatitis, and even some neoplasias secondary to the inflammatory response to obesity. All these diseases either decrease the quality of life or are severe enough to cause death sooner than we would like.

Most importantly, is that on average, obese dogs generally die two years younger than dogs of a healthy weight.

One of the big problems with this disease process is that most people don't really recognize what a pet with an ideal weight score looks like. Purina has a body condition scoring system that ranks weight on a scale from one to nine. One is emaciated, two is very thin, three is thin, four is underweight, five is ideal, six is overweight, seven is heavy, eight is obese, and nine is grossly obese.

What does a five out of nine ideal-rated dog look like? Well, their ribs should be palpable without excess fat covering. The waist is discernible when viewed from above. The abdomen is tucked up when viewed from the side. But I use what I call the rail method to decide where my patients fall on the list. If you can feel individual ribs with the palms of your hands when you rub their chest but can't really see the individual ribs, you're probably okay.

If you want a visual of what that is in people, I relate it to active children when I was a kid. We all ran around during the summers, playing, eating healthy meals. You could see our ribs when we were at the pool. You can see the rib cages of bodybuilders, for that matter, so you know that there isn't a lot of muscle between the skin and the rib cage. So all that is left is fat.

You know, I can feel you thinking, "What is this fat guy doing talking to us about obesity?" I have no excuses, but I will say that you're paying me to help you keep your pet healthy, so do as I say, not as I do. I have no self-control when it comes to eating, but guess what? Lest your pets have the ability to open the pantry door and get into the food, they are not in the decision-making process when it comes to how much they eat or what they eat.

How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?

Before the grain-free fad became a thing, I recommended that you feed one cup or half a can per 20 pounds of ideal body weight for adult dogs, and twice a day for growing puppies. Now, if you're feeding grain-free food, that is one cup for 25 pounds of ideal body weight.

Before you start saying that that is not enough, sit down to the dinner table and put that much food on your plate. That would be three cups twice a day for somebody who weighs 120 pounds, and five cups twice a day for somebody who weighs 200 pounds. Most people don't eat that much, so why would we need to feed that much to our pets, or more?

Do you know that in the wild, dogs have stomachs large enough to eat and stock up on three days' worth of food at once so they don't have to make a kill every day? Dogs like to eat, and so they want more than they need. If you want to supplement that volume, consider adding veggies or canned pumpkin. They are low-calorie and fillers that make your pet feel fuller without adding weight.

Options for Helping Your Pet Lose Weight

So, volume control is one option for helping your pet lose weight. Another is to feed a lower-calorie option, so instead of feeding grain-free food which often leaves your pet hungry, feed low-fat or high-fiber diets.

There are also diets that actually have ingredients that help your body to burn calories, such as the Metabolic Diet by Hills. That seems to be the new scientific way of getting your pet's weight down. For those who want to feed more calories, remember, if you exercise more, you can eat more. Diet and exercise work hand in hand in terms of weight gain and weight loss, so more exercise helps to lose weight faster.

Dental Care For Senior Dogs

Dental disease is especially common in senior dogs because it progresses gradually and can easily go unnoticed. Senior dogs simply adapt to living with discomfort. However, adapting to discomfort doesn't mean that they are not in pain. Just as in humans, dental issues can be very painful for dogs. Unfortunately for your dog, they are not able to express themselves to you in a way that will help you understand.

It is our goal to diagnose and treat all dental disease in senior pets and allow them to live comfortably in their senior years. Some senior pets will have other illnesses that will affect the recommended course of treatment. Therefore, we will work together with you to determine the safest and best outcome for your dog.

How Much Exercise Should A Senior Dog Get?

Although your senior dog cannot jump as high or run as fast as he or she could in their prime, exercise is still an essential component of any senior dog care regimen. Dogs tend to age better both physically and mentally when daily exercise, such as a short walk is a part of their routine. However, an important rule of thumb is to keep their exercise both regular and moderate. Keep up with daily or every other day walks and limit the duration according to the dog's level of fitness and fatigue. Just as in humans, exercise can also:

  • Help maintain a healthy body weight
  • Slow the progression of old-age arthritis
  • Stimulate cognitive capacity
  • Heighten motor skills and coordination faculties

Of course, the physical condition of your senior dog will ultimately determine exercise duration and frequency, and we recommend consulting your veterinarian about the most appropriate and effective exercise routine for your canine companion.

Vaccines For Senior Dogs

In general, senior dogs tolerate vaccinations the same as younger dogs. Nonetheless, we evaluate each dog individually when deciding upon a vaccine protocol. Because vaccination schedules are unique to every dog, we recommend discussing vaccinations with your veterinarian to choose the options that are right for your elderly canine companion.

Controlling Parasites In Senior Dogs

Senior pets are as vulnerable to parasites as younger dogs and in some cases even more so. Unfortunately, they may not be able to groom and care for themselves as well as they once could and therefore may not show clear signs of distress when infected by fleas and ticks. Therefore, it is very important to maintain consistency with flea/tick and intestinal parasite control programs for aging dogs. Your veterinarian can help determine if any changes should be made to an existing senior dog care parasite control program, as well as if a program should be implemented or terminated altogether.

Schedule A Wellness Checkup For Your Senior Dog Today!

As a dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic team of dog people, we love seeing wagging tails, feeling cold noses and hearing about how our senior dog services have bettered the lives of our elderly canine patients. Our canine veterinary staff loves caring for older dogs and pledges a commitment to the health, wellness and happiness of your elderly canine companion. We have been here for many aging dogs and their owners over the years, and we will be here for you and yours each and every step of the way.

Give us a call or fill out a form here on our website to schedule a wellness checkup for your senior dog today!

Schedule A Veterinary Appointment For Your Senior Dog Today!

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