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Easy ways to keep your senior dog happy and healthy

Senior dogs require more attention, not to mention more hugs and kisses.

As with human loved ones, it is best to enjoy moments with your senior dogs now, as we do not know how long we have to love and care for our senior dog.

We have five senior shih tzus.

People always ask us what we do as our shih tzus do not look like they are senior dogs.

Staff at a pet store are amazed that our Summer, now 14 years old,  can still run and play like a 2-year-old dog inside the store with 12-year-old Lucas. They tell us every time we are in the pet store that our Summer looks so young for her age.

Easy ways to keep your senior dog happy and healthy
Senior dogs go malling with their humans (from left) Angela Munoz-Salgado, Abby Munoz, Paolo Salgado and Niko Salgado. 
They ask us, “What’s your secret?”

I tell them we nurture our pets not just by giving good, nutritious food and vitamins.

I tell them we also bring our senior dogs to the vet  twice a year for a check-up and we bring them out for car rides and visits to pet restos to make them happy.

I tell them we try to  exercise them as often as we can and we allow them time to sunbathe.

But the most nourishing, I believe, is making them feel loved.

Members of our family say to each of them as often as we can, “Thank you for coming into my life.”

Every day, I also say to them, “I love you so much. Thank you for being in my life. You make me so happy.”  

And each would smile, and look at me  with so much love. They do understand. They appreciate the kind words. They thrive in kind words.

And the many hugs and kisses also “nourish” them in their senior years.

To help you take better care of your senior dog, here are five tips from  Lorie Huston, DVM, in “Healthcare Tips for Senior Dogs” in PetMD.

Huston stressed “A senior dog has different health requirements than a younger dog.”

Easy ways to keep your senior dog happy and healthy
Every doggy now: (from left) senior dog Louise, her pamangkins  Batchikels and Putzi, seniors Shakti, Nacho, Summer and Lucas.
1. A regular health check-up will help your senior dog.

Vets recommend that a senior dog be checked twice a year. Please take heed. It is a big help for senior dogs. This can help you help your senior dog address a health concern early and fast.

“A thorough physical examination by your veterinarian may reveal health issues that can impact your pet’s life and comfort level, such as dental disease, arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease and more,” Huston said.

The check-up is more important if your dog already has serious health issues, Huston added.

2.  Always watch out for behavior changes in  your senior dog.

“This is important for all pets but doubly so for senior dogs. Changes in your dog’s behavior may be a symptom of disease. Watch specifically for changes in your dog’s appetite and water consumption,” Huston said.

Huston also said, ”Watch for changes in urinary and bowel habits and alterations in sleep routines. If your dog suddenly becomes irritable for no reason, it may be because he is in pain, having difficulty seeing, or having a hard time hearing properly. Any changes in your senior pet’s routines or behaviors should prompt a consultation with your veterinarian.”

3. Make your  house a place where your dog can get around easily.

“Be aware that your senior dog may have pain caused by arthritis or other health issues that make it difficult for him to get around as well as he did when he was younger. Consider providing ramps or stairs to allow your senior dog to access furniture or beds. Ramps on stairs may make it easier for your pet to get up and down the stairs, and carpeting on slippery floors may help your dog gain his footing. Your senior dog may need assistance getting into and out of the car as well,” Huston said.

Some senior dogs may be having  some  eye problems already. They will need help to go around  your house. Rearrange furniture and sharp objects  to keep your senior dog safe.

4. Talk to your vet regarding a diet for a senior dog. 

“Dietary requirements may change as your dog ages. It's important that you provide your senior dog a pet food that is age appropriate. Some older pets tend to gain weight and may need a diet for less active dogs. Others may have difficulty holding their weight and may need a diet with a higher calorie content or better palatability,” Huston said.

“Older pets also may have diseases that can be manipulated and/or controlled at least partly through diet. Your veterinarian can help you choose an appropriate diet for your senior dog based on your dog’s individual nutritional requirements,” Huston added.

5. Give your senior dog soft blankets and towels for his/her bed.

“This will help him to rest easier and sleep better. There are even special orthopedic beds made for senior dogs. In addition to having a denser form to help cushion your senior dog's aging joints, some orthopedic beds can be outfitted with a heat and/or vibration source, which increases circulation and reduces stiffness—perfect for dogs with arthritis,” Huston said.

May I add the following tips:

1. Do not over exercise your dog.  Your dog can no longer do long walks. Your dog also can not walk or run as fast as when he or she was younger.  You, as the owner, will know  how slow and how long your dog can walk at his/her age.

2. Look out for panting. Make sure you have water on hand.

3. We also noted that some senior dogs  get hot easily even in a temperature that is cold for a human being.

4. Have your senior dog groomed regularly. Thick coat can  make your dog feel hot.

5. Also, they do age, thus, their body temperature may  be too hot sometimes.  Indicators of a dog  who is feeling hot are  panting  and a belly that is hot to the touch.

6. Ask your vet for additional supplements depending on the condition of your senior dog. For example, we give Co Q 10 (30 mg) gel (tablet) daily for the heart.  We also boost the immune system by giving 5 ml of coco nectar daily.

It is best to observe your dog and find out from your vet how you can help make the senior years  still the best years of your pet by making him/her feel loved, comfortable, and well-cared for.

Topics: Senior dogs , shih tzus

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