By Morieka Johnson, MNN
Q: It’s getting harder for my 9-year-old dog to do the things she used to enjoy. How can I help her age gracefully?
A: While every dog is different, most canines enter their geriatric phase at 7 to 8 years of age. As with humans, advanced age can lead to arthritis, decreased mobility and decreased organ functions. An expert from my pooch’s veterinary clinic offers the following tips to help embrace your dog’s inner puppy as the years go by:
Keep up the exercise: Don’t discount those daily walks. Even if the pace is a little slower these days, it’s a way to bond with your dog and burn calories together. Just be sure to monitor your pet during and after the walk. Dogs don’t sweat, so be mindful of excessive panting or signs of exhaustion. If your dog is like my sister’s dog, Daisy, it will simply stop when enough is enough. If you have a couch potato, introduce exercise on a gradual basis. A few minutes of fetch each day can keep dogs active.
Watch the weight: On a small frame, an extra three to five pounds can strain hips and joints. Since older animals are less active, they require fewer calories. Talk to your veterinarian about reducing portions or switching to a senior formula, which has fewer calories and often includes joint-friendly supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin. A smaller-size kibble or softer food also may be necessary to aid in digestion. I’ve added a bit of warm water or veggie broth to help soften Daisy’s food during her visits.