At La Jolla Veterinary 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:
Changes in eyesight
Arthritis and muscle mass loss
Cardiac and kidney disease
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 the owner. Early detection of these changes can help prevent the progression of diseases and minimize the suffering of a senior dog.
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
Heart and Circulatory System
Lungs and Nose
Joints and Muscles
Any condition changes since the last visit
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 ideal body weight. Carrying extra weight is especially difficult for a senior dog and will impact the quality of his or her 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 his or her condition between visits.
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 added protein or changes in the type of protein they receive. 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, and might also address liver, kidney, or urinary issues, as well as the general nutritional needs specific to 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 diseases 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is committed 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.