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Life goes by quickly if you are a dog owner. The excited little pup you brought home a few years ago becomes a mellow senior before you know it. Fortunately, with the advances in veterinary medicine, we are able to better identify and manage the health conditions that aging dogs fall prey to.Although conventional wisdom tells us that a dog's age times seven is the equivalent of their age in human years, the fact remains that dogs grow old at different rates and it depends a lot on their size. For instance, giant dogs like Great Danes do not live for more than 10 years on an average, while a Chihuahua might live past the age of 18. As a rule of thumb, a dog can be counted as a senior dog for the last quarter of its expected life span.
- Osteoarthritis – Joint disease is the most common sign of aging, both in dogs and humans. The cartilage that protects the surfaces of the joints tends to wear down over time. Although this condition is irreversible, you can observe a few rules to minimize its impact. Ensure that your pet is not overweight. If your dog is heavier than it should be, it will put more load on its joints. Large dogs are especially prone to this condition as they have a genetic predisposition to conditions like hip dysplasia. Take your dog to the vet regularly to catch joint disease early. Look out for signs like stiffness in the morning, reluctance to climb the stairs, and limping. Also, enquire your vet about therapeutic diets. Some of them are formulated to improve joint health and mobility.
- Dental disease – This condition afflicts all sizes and breeds of canines. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss, pain and bacteria in the blood that can damage the dog's internal organs. Home care such as dental treats and tooth brushing might reduce the tartar on their teeth, as can specially formulated foods that are meant to promote dental health. Once the disease has advanced, your dog might need a dental cleaning under anesthesia at the clinic. The key is to start early before the onset of full-blown periodontal disease.
- Obesity – More than fifty percent of the dogs in the US are obese or overweight, and owners do not even realize it. Moreover, overweight dogs are vulnerable to secondary problems like diabetes, joint disease, and respiratory illness. Calorie control and exercise are key factors in managing the weight of a pet. Senior dogs are less active than young dogs and need lesser calories as a result. Diets that are designed for senior dogs provide nutrients in proper balance, with different ratios of protein and fat than you would normally find in standard dog food. Gentle regular exercise can help dogs suffering from health issues. Consult with the vet to come up with an exercise plan and a diet that suits your pet.