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Unfortunately we all age. No one has figured out how to stop the aging process yet, although there are ways we are finding to slow down the aging process in humans. It doesn’t work for everyone but taking certain precautions can help slow the hands of time and the wrinkles that come with age.

When we look at our pet dogs and cats, their biological clock moves even faster than hours – an average of 1 of their years equals 7 of ours, per most research studies (although at the beginning and the end of their lives it does move quicker than 7 years as we know understand). We can help our “senior” pets slow the clock as well by doing a few things.

Exercise

Just like with humans, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So taking your dog out for a walk every day, or doing agility, hunting, fly-ball, swimming, etc., benefits them tremendously. If you have some woods or forest around you, taking them out on a regular basis stimulates muscles, nerves, senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, etc.), and increases blood flow to every organ and tissue in the body. Unfortunately, it only takes 3 days of laying in a bed to breakdown muscles and decrease blood flow to nerves and tissues. So, get them up and walking/running around to help keep those cells happy.

Exercise

Just like with humans, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So taking your dog out for a walk every day, or doing agility, hunting, fly-ball, swimming, etc., benefits them tremendously. If you have some woods or forest around you, taking them out on a regular basis stimulates muscles, nerves, senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, etc.), and increases blood flow to every organ and tissue in the body. Unfortunately, it only takes 3 days of laying in a bed to breakdown muscles and decrease blood flow to nerves and tissues. So, get them up and walking/running around to help keep those cells happy.

Nutrition

Again, in humans, when we age we can’t eat things like we use to (no more eating 10 Oreo cookies in a sitting!) without gaining a lot of weight or having digestive issues. Dogs are similar. I usually recommend a high-quality senior dog food be started for most dogs around the age of 7 or 8. Stay away from human foods that can cause pancreatitis or excess gas or diarrhea. As dogs age, their intestinal tract becomes more sensitive and it can be harder to break down food into its basic nutrients for normal health. Dogs can also get arthritis in their joints just like humans. Using supplements like animal-based Omega 3 oils and joint supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin in them can be very beneficial.

Nutrition

Again, in humans, when we age we can’t eat things like we use to (no more eating 10 Oreo cookies in a sitting!) without gaining a lot of weight or having digestive issues. Dogs are similar. I usually recommend a high-quality senior dog food be started for most dogs around the age of 7 or 8. Stay away from human foods that can cause pancreatitis or excess gas or diarrhea. As dogs age, their intestinal tract becomes more sensitive and it can be harder to break down food into its basic nutrients for normal health. Dogs can also get arthritis in their joints just like humans. Using supplements like animal-based Omega 3 oils and joint supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin in them can be very beneficial.

Senior Testing

When taking your older dog to the veterinarian for their annual physical or vaccine updates, it’s well worth it to spend a little extra to get a senior health profile (bloodwork) for them. Make sure to bring in a urine sample and stool sample. The tests we have available in-house at most veterinary clinics now can screen to see if your dog has liver or kidney issues starting and other conditions like diabetes. The earlier we can detect the issues, the quicker we can start them on medications or supplements to help those organs stay functioning. Over the last 20 years there have been some incredible new break throughs with medications to keep your dog’s organs working the best they can and allow your dog to live a much longer life.

Senior Testing

When taking your older dog to the veterinarian for their annual physical or vaccine updates, it’s well worth it to spend a little extra to get a senior health profile (bloodwork) for them. Make sure to bring in a urine sample and stool sample. The tests we have available in-house at most veterinary clinics now can screen to see if your dog has liver or kidney issues starting and other conditions like diabetes. The earlier we can detect the issues, the quicker we can start them on medications or supplements to help those organs stay functioning. Over the last 20 years there have been some incredible new break throughs with medications to keep your dog’s organs working the best they can and allow your dog to live a much longer life.
These are just a few things to consider when caring for your older dog. Your veterinarian will also have some other ideas, depending on the issues your pet may be having, to help extend their life. Be sure to visit your veterinarian at least once or twice a year with your older dog to keep them young at heart!

Dr. Jocelynn Jacobs DVM, CVC