It's generally assumed your dog at age seven is heading into the second half of her life. I know it seems a little premature to view a seven-year-old dog as a senior citizen, especially if your pooch still looks and acts like a puppy.
But for purposes of supporting her health, mental status and quality of life as she ages, it's really not a bad idea to think about ways you can take extra-special care of your pet as she crosses the seven-year threshold and beyond. Always speak to your veterinarian before starting a new regimen to make sure it's safe and appropriate for your pet.
Common Condition #1: Arthritis
Making sure that your dog maintains a healthy weight and ensuring he's physically active throughout his life will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease in his later years.
Chiropractic adjustments, massage, stretching, aquatic therapy and acupuncture are therapies that can make a world of difference in the mobility of your pet as he ages. Talk with your holistic or integrative vet about supplements you can add to your dog's diet to help maintain healthy tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage. Some of these might include:
• Glucosamine sulfate with MSM and eggshell membrane
• Omega-3 fats (krill oil)
• Supergreen foods like spirulina and astaxanthin
• Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs, proteolytic enzymes and nutraceuticals)
• Adequan injections, which can stimulate joint fluid very rapidly in pets with arthritis
Common Condition #2: Cataracts
Unfortunately, cataracts are common in older dogs. However, it's important to know whether your dog really has cataracts, or whether she has an even more common eye condition called nuclear sclerosis.
In nuclear sclerosis, the eye tissue gets harder and more rigid over time, and the eyes take on a bluish-grey tint. Unlike cataracts, nuclear sclerosis doesn't seriously compromise eyesight and no treatment is necessary.
One way you can help your dog avoid cataracts is to make sure she never gets overweight, which increases the likelihood of diabetes.
Common Condition #3: Constipation
A decreased activity level and poor muscle tone in the GI tract due to aging can contribute to constipation in older dogs. However, if your pet is otherwise healthy, is eating the right diet and getting plenty of clean water to drink, there's no reason to assume he'll become constipated in his senior years.
How to prevent constipation in dogs of any age:
• Feed your dog a balanced, moisture rich, species-appropriate diet.
• Supplement with digestive enzymes and probiotics.
• Make sure your pooch gets plenty of exercise.
If additional fiber is necessary from time to time, good sources include:
• Ground dark green leafy veggies: 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight, one or two times daily with food
• Coconut fiber: 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight, one or two times daily on food
• Canned 100 percent pumpkin: 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight, one or two times daily on food
Common Condition #4: Tooth and Gum Disease
Eighty percent of dogs age three and older have gum disease. I can't stress enough the importance of helping your dog keep her mouth clean. Taking the following steps will ensure your canine companion won't have to spend her golden years with missing teeth, gum disease or worse.
• Feed your dog a species appropriate, preferably raw diet. When your dog gnaws on raw meat, in particular, it acts as a kind of natural toothbrush. (Discuss diet changes with your vet.)
• Brush your dog's teeth -- preferably every day.
• Perform routine mouth inspections.
• Arrange for regular oral exams and professional cleaning, if necessary, performed by your veterinarian.
Common Condition #5: Senility
Signs your dog's brain is aging include an increase in the amount of time spent sleeping, disinterest in his surroundings, intermittent loss of acquired knowledge (for example, housebreaking) and increased anxiety.
In addition to feeding a species-appropriate diet and regularly exercising your dog, discuss the following with your vet as options to help keep your pet mentally sharp:
• Provide a SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) supplement. Studies show dogs with age-related cognitive decline given a SAMe supplement for eight weeks achieved a 50 percent reduction in mental impairment.
• Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older dogs. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs. I recommend one quarter-teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support.
• Other supplements to consider are resveratrol, which protects against free radical damage and beta-amyloid deposits, ginkgo biloba and phosphatidylserine -- a nutritional supplement that can inhibit age-related cognitive deficits.
Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com.
Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.
By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.