Fantastic to hear that you have a Senior dog in your family. This is a great part of their life and we will help you make it a fulfilled and fun as we can. You will not be surprised to hear that senior dogs have different demands than younger ones. No worries, our pet experts are fully aware and will help guide you. My dog Carlo is nearing this stage too, so I know exactly what it means.
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When is a dog considered a senior dog?
I don't know if there's like one proper definition for that but I would say, you know, I tell owners around seven years. Seven years old that's when we start recommending annual bloodwork maybe start checking thyroid levels. Prior to that, unless a dog's showing symptoms. For those exam findings actually just as maybe hypothyroidism, you're starting to see some hair loss, or potbelly appearance, you're hearing history from the owner that might present that. It really also depends on the kind and size of the dog, large breed dog giant breed dogs, they make it to six, seven years. That's a long life. But little dogs, for example many poodles even got up to 16 17 18.
Genetics and breed are huge compnents. It's definitely breed specific. Some dogs show aging symptoms before their literal age and if they've had an injury or some other sort of health issue that can certainly accelerate the aging process. If they're obese or they've got, back issues that can contribute to faster aging.
Is there anything you need to do differently for your dog when it starts getting a little bit older?
I think there's all sorts of things I mean I think that there's, you know, the class of, like, old age symptoms flowing down graying of the hair. Maybe not wanting to go out for as long as a walk or as many walks, not as interested in planning maybe not as a treatment meeting, not yours, like eliminating in the household potentially when, you know, prior to that you know well how strange I think those are, those are some pretty common ones and then, you know, actual like stuff that may have a medical origin, you know, coughing, disorientation agitation restlessness at night, no more cognitive neuro stuff. I think those are things that I see a lot. people come in and then of course like orthopedic issues that could be, leading to a dog not wanting to go out more and maybe learning on the way. I think there's like statistics I don't know them off top my head but a very high percentage of dog above the age of three, is like 85% I read somewhere, have dental disease. Pretty close. Underneath that, I would imagine our dogs who are obese, because they're not getting enough rat, walking or maybe they have their arthritic joints, working as well, and they such will not be going for not getting as much exercise and then just kind of become couch potatoes. So I think some of the big ones that I see is a dog Nation Of course like cancer, you know they're noticing growth. Other subcutaneous growth, you know, originate somewhere on the body. Like, you know, they may be benign or presumptive, and I like the light coma, you can feel it. We feel that I can't really know that sampling it in a biopsy, but depending on the location, it can really interfere with quality of life but I think a lot of the stuff actually getting on to real end of life care is assessing quality of life, and even if we're not going to be doing things to cure a patient ailment or particular malady just making it to the end of life as comfortable as possible.
Yeah I mean I think each clinic, does it differently in terms of their offerings for wellness, senior exams. A very popular one for dogs who are10 11 12 years old, may have some underlying condition that's been caught previously, or otherwise, starting to think about semi annual exams instead of coming in once a year for otherwise healthy younger dogs coming in, twice a year, more likely to catch stuff before the onset. Common practice for dog wellness are a complete blood count chemistry profile or thyroid hormone level analysis.
Especially the dog young tends to eat stuff off the ground that he shouldn't, or has chronic GI issues that haven't been resolved with diet changes, or certain medications, but those are the kind of standard workup maybe once a year or twice a year depending on if a dog has something that's been established. And then, depending on what we are looking for have indication of issues, you don't want to do a full body scan every single bone. A targeted approach for individual indications is more appropriate.
There are certain patients, you know like, the urinary issues in the dog what I saw this morning. One of them had blood work done in January, and everything was good. And your office is normal, and, and we put him on. Probably the saga UTI the year before I got to the hospital, a year and some change ago and the owner said that he did well on the xenobiotic, and he was having trouble you're straining to urinate, that's what I found about a month ago. So yeah, I guess we did bloodwork started months ago, and everything was normal, everything was normal in the urinalysis, and the antibiotics, even though you didn't really show any bacteria in the urine. I was like do no harm, you know, and they haven't beneficial effects, and the dog responded, but now the owner saying, you know, the guy who's Fine fine fine and then all of a sudden, he's been just urinating more frequently bananas training together and voiding smaller amounts, multiple times on a walk now going outside the house or anything just on her walk she's noticed that. And so you know I thought about the way that I want to go about treating or diagnose like, what am I going to try to work out what is most more suspicious. And I think because we didn't have any imaging done I recommended abdominal X ray to rule out some obstructive cause that may be causing him going in smaller about, especially if he had previously been straining, even though maybe she started nursing and now, that was the one diagnostic that I chose today. The next dog in the morning is just, it comes in twos or fours, you know, the cat lilies, or the tiger diarrhea is one of the two dogs, urinary issues, and this dog came in after the owner I mentioned that he was urinating way more frequently. Sometimes, and drinking more frequently, and he had some blood work that was done in January, that was January, and there was some liver enzyme abnormality ALP was high and outman valley with a little bit more descended than I would want or expect something he made me thought his country so I could have done an extra on him, but I decided the diagnostic I think is going to be more fruitful will be a load of sex so depression tests to rule out Cushing, that's the one that I chose for him. Because at the end of the day like theoretically like possible that both of those tests come back negative, you know, it would be fortunate for the dog I guess but, unfortunately, in terms of our diagnostic workup, Yes, we're able to rule something out, but it's really just about trying to prioritize based on the individual, what's going on. And sometimes, you know, we make the right call and I guess, Dex counting and probably have those tomorrow or come back from the weekend that I didn't see anything on the X ray so I didn't really have much to tell the initial owner for the first time. Yeah, kind of a little bit a lie, in terms of the most common reasons for a dog who might have palac area. But yeah, it's really just, you know, knowing the patient understanding it's not the last trade, knowing what the owner is comfortable with knowing what dogs lifestyle is no dog, you know, need to be ongoing person in control in their high energy, high use. They're going on long runs and hikes of their owners. I'm definitely going to recommend you focus on drawing and supplementation. And even before they become geriatric and officially like alright, but those are like you know indoors. Well, body, good body conditioning me a well maintained and don't really run around as much. Now, I would be a little less in depression after that, for example.
Yeah, cuz a lot of times, owners, we rely on the owners to watch their paths and kind of see their changes and behavior because you're right you see him once a year, twice a year, every two years, and a lot of times with these dogs, if they develop a tumor or some sort of condition, they don't start showing symptoms until it's too late. At some point, they're pretty stoic and they're, you know if you'd asked why he's just not eating or, or I'm not saying, with every little thing run to the vet, but at the same time it could be worth a phone call, you never know and if you briefly had many dogs come in with Lee's had this tumor now, he's doing it, and then we take x rays and it's everywhere. It's like well it's, it's too late now.
Do you need to change their food once they start getting older.
As far as diets go. I often tell owners that I want their dog. First and foremost, food that they'll eat, because, you know, oftentimes, I'm going to be recommending dogs who have kidney disease or liver disease specific therapeutic diet by Royal cannon or hills or Purina depending on like owner, you know, brand recognition, you know, some say, I don't like period at all I like, I'm not gonna put, I don't. I think that different clinicians have different styles in terms of pushing ours in a different direction. And if I know for example that specific diet, be beneficial for the dog, but they're, you know, they hear something from their friend that oh you know now, specific brands you know caused battery in my dog. Well, I you know I say that might not be your dog, you know, it could be worthwhile to try canner so if you guys like that but obviously it's a I think it's one of the topics where owners are, you know, It's one of things they can pseudo control and their dog's life, and you really can't. You don't want to interfere with that process because they see your diet, enjoy herself, go into the board, essentially exams, give you a lot of joy, because it's so like, while I know KD or renal support he are going to be good for kidneys that, and I recommend those. You know, they can dream or not. They often have what I hear is, you know, and I always recommend kind of a gradual diet change, you know, not immediately kind of cold turkey. But even so, some owners after a week or so will be like, he's not eating it. He doesn't want to eat it. You know, can I see it. Can I go back to old food. And so I talk to them about the pros and cons, but at the end of the day like I want the dog to be eating. So that's the biggest priority for me, nutrition, for sure you need to be getting something, and then we can discuss what that old diet is and if it's, you know the best. If it's acceptable or not. I recommend avoiding raw diet. Grain Free, generally speaking, I, and you know obviously there's a street food allergy I avoid, you know the specific protein. But there isn't like a game plan well oh your dog is turning 12 Right now, we need absolutely to transition into like the senior brand, senior diet like it's not necessary per se to do that. But we should be cognizant of his or her knees as they may change from a medical perspective, obviously, there is on routine blood work or or not routine, you know, if the dog has diabetes and we know that for a fact, we're going to be strongly recommending, You know, a low carbohydrate high fiber diet it's the dog had it's like literally 1000s of protein losing a property or something, we want to get on, like high fiber specific protein hydrolyzed protein diet maybe a dog with cardiac disease, you know, look for low sodium dental disease is one of those tricky areas I feel because I often hear different things. I think you asked about two beds so got three opinions, sir, for me, I find that hard kibble is better for dogs with dental disease. It's more abrasive kind of helping get a food particles that may be stuck on the handle off. But obviously, if the dog is in pain from dental disease or tooth that maybe needs to be extracted and the owner isn't really doesn't have the funds to do so. Or isn't really able to for whatever reason, you know maybe what food is better because it's a little easier for them to actually chew and swallow. So, there's that to think about the actual consistency of the food.
If a dog is healthy. Would you recommend changing to a senior diet when they got older, is it a necessary thing to feed. When you go to the store and it says, I am Senior Health or Purina senior health or you can ever wherever senior active senior you know, my dog's ancient, It's like, she's like 12 and 1213, we feed her like active maturity.
From IMEs but yeah I mean, it's definitely not necessary. What's necessary is, you know, being cognizant of that, I think, you know, I always tell owners even like puppies. Puppies and first time puppy owners like really glad to be the first that you have the honor of meeting a dog but I guess it's really, yeah, they're probably gonna mean a bunch over the course of their life or maybe I may be the only one. Yeah, so it's important that you know that first visit, you know, we lay down what what's important for their dog. And from a preventative health standpoint. And what I tell people from the beginning is, you know, you're gonna, like, it's such a joy like to be feeding your dog see them eat. I start seeing puppies. Being overweight, you know as early as a couple months old, and I, I would say it's rare that I see is that early but yeah I would say for the most part, those young dogs have such high energy and they're not they don't regulate an owner is going to be fine follow the feeding guidelines, adequate exercise, but if they're not getting that exercise and eating too much. I won't talk to owners about like you know, your dog's gaining weight, he or she shouldn't be at this time. But we need to kind of pump the brakes on the rate of true, because a little bit wider than taller. Yeah, exactly. So I think, while those senior maturity dies, you know, senior wellness stuff has its place. I think the biggest thing, like feeding that to a dog who is obese is not as important as you know, having the discussion with the bet as to what's the proper like calories for my dog for his like daily energy requirements, how much does he actually need. And if you're feeling that senior diet but like three times, you should be, then that's not appropriate. Yeah are shocked at how much you when you, when you calculate the kilocalories that the dog is supposed to have. And then you equate that to how much cup why's that is for the food. You know people are people are astounded, there's like oh I just fill up the bowl right. He gets a cup like a top like a cup like hold up like a big goal from from 777 11 or whatever. And he could put seven, I guess but and, yeah, they just want a free feed.
They just have free feeding. I try to, I try to highly avoid that. I always tell people like do you free feed, as a human, you just walk around it just, you just eat whatever because guess what you're going to get fat. And that's the same thing that happened to dog.
So yeah, I mean there's like the importance of treats, but also, you know, tell it. Check the label and see how much kilocalories per unit that you're feeding, and we don't want that to be more than 10% of the daily diet, and they can really add up quick. And, you know, from a psychological perspective I'm sure the dogs love it, but it's not necessarily in your best interest always get it. That's right, so does not equal love. So, so, it also tell everybody watching this you guys want to ask questions, it doesn't have to be about old dogs or fat dogs or bad teeth dogs. It can be just about anything, pet related certainly send it on in and we're happy to answer questions here. Are there any kind of additives or anything they could add people could add the food to help with their aging pets to help them out.
You mentioned glucosamine earlier but is there anything else.
Yeah I mean I think that's really good, I think, you know, for various skin conditions or itchiness code quality omega three fatty acids are good. I can also be really good for like cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or like doggy dementia. So I think that that can be a really good thing, depending on the dog's GI tract and issues that are kind of becoming chronic depending on, you know, test results, potentially supplementing with like vitamin D 12 Cobell elements could be something to do with other supplements I think about and then also, you know, I guess circling back to the dementia side of things, melatonin can be really good to kind of regulate the sleep cycle. And it also can be an adjunct for dogs who have various like syndromes alopecia may take a while to kind of kick in, but it can kind of help with hair growth.
Yeah glucosamine and and you know those types of things are, you know, once a day, I think you start off for a couple of weeks, twice a day and then you level off once a day, kind of indefinitely, for sure.
Are there things that you can do with your pet being younger to kind of help them ensure they have an easier, old age, obviously keeping them in shape is, is definitely a good good way to go but yeah, I know we said a lot of this is genetics, but is there anything you can do during your dog's life. Beside, taking them to the vet that can help them out in old age, make him more comfortable.
Yeah I mean I think it's being as compassionate and patient with them, and knowing that, I guess, depends on what stage you're in. And you're, you know, abilities or lack thereof, you know, I know there's quite a few dogs who are supportive of their aging owners, and then there's, you know, really young people who have really old dogs, and it's kind of the reverse. I mean, it really depends. But I think one of the best things is to be present and like understand as best as you can like what the dogs, wanting, I feel that there is such a jump in recent years, for owners to jump can medicating their dogs for behavioral anxiety. Separation Anxiety noise phobia, those fireworks or loud noises, whatever. And like, It hasn't played, you know they're not aggressive enough, there are drugs that we can definitely give that may or may not have an effect. I think it's really just from an early, I think your question was more like what the easiest starting kind of earlier on to make sure that transition is kind of lifestyle choices, you know don't smoke, don't let them drain you. No, no alcohol yeah that's right.