Previously I wrote about senior wellness screening that your vet may want to perform on your pet. Today we are going to revisit senior wellness but from a "what can I dog at home?" perspective.
1. Lump and Bump check: Once a month feel all over your dog, checking for new lumps that may be under or on the skin. Many of these may be benign age related changes but only a quick needle biopsy can tell for sure. Also check for lumps under the chin, armpits, groin and behind the knees (back legs). These are places were lymph nodes are and enlarged lymph nodes are also something that needs to be checked out right away.
2. Dental care: If you are able it’s best to brush your dog’s teeth. If you can’t then at least try to take a quick look in the mouth and look for obvious signs of disease-heavy tartar, red or bleeding gums, irregular gum tissue or tumors.
3. Diet: Feed your older dog an appropriate diet. Your vet may prescribe a prescription diet if you pet has certain diseases like kidney failure, heart failure, or diabetes. But even if they don’t have a specific condition older pets have different metabolic needs and will need a quality senior diet.
4. Exercise: Just because your dog is older and less active doesn’t mean he should become a couch potato. Light exercise is still good to keep the muscles strong and joints loose. Go for shorter walks if needed or don’t throw the ball as far or as much but still let them exercise. Keeping your older dog lean will lessen the problems he or she may have with arthritis as well.
5. Weight: Monitor and write down your pet’s weight every month or so. When we see our pet every day it’s harder to notice a gradual weight loss or gain. But both of these changes, especially weight loss can indicate a serious problem that needs to be addresses.
6. Supplements: Two supplements that I think are great for any older dog are Glucosamine/Chondroitin and Fish oil (fatty acids). Glucosamine/chondroitin help slow down the process of arthritis as well as reduce some of the discomfort. My favorite brand is Cosequin or Dasuquin-both from Nutramax laboratories. Since nutracueticals are not regulated many of them don’t contain what they claim they do and may not be bioavailable to dogs. These two supplements are proven to be reputable. Fish oils are anti-inflammatory and are useful for many conditions such as arthritis, heart, kidney, and skin disease.
7. Eating and drinking habits: Keep an eye on your dog's eating and drinking habits. Decreases in eating can be caused by a variety of problems . Unexpected weight loss or gain in relation to appetite are also cause for concern. For example weight loss with good appetite or weight gain with normal to decreased appetite are not normal. Watching the food intake and the weight will help you notice these things. Increased water consumption is also a sign of several age related diseases that need to be further investigated.