Thursday, August 9, 2012

Maintaining the Senior Spirit

The perception of pets as true family members as well as advancements in veterinary medicine have allowed the dogs in our lives to live longer, healthier lives.  Pets are living more active, high quality lives well into their senior years.  So how do you keep your senior pet healthy?  Check out these tips below:

A thorough check up at your veterinarian annually including blood work and X-rays (if your pet is experiencing mobility issues) is the best place to start.   Remember dogs age more quickly than humans, and the larger the dog the more quickly they age.  For Labradors, senior wellness checks can start as early as 6 years old.  Discuss with your veterinarian changes in your pet's mental and physical health.  Is your pet slowing down or seem painful?  There is a multitude of pain relievers that work on different pain receptors in the body to help relieve arthritis in your pet.  If you don't see any improvement from one medication alone, talk to your vet about adding additional pain medications.  Although some can be a bit pricey such as prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like Rimadyl or Deramaxx, others are very inexpensive such as Tramadol and Gabapentin.  Fortunately, they work together at lower doses leaving your pet free from side effects such as lethargy or grogginess.

In addition to prescription medications, nutritional supplements can also help your senior pet.  Glucosamine and chondroitin help to keep joints healthy and slow the progression of arthritis.  Fish oil helps provide important Omega-3 fatty acids known to aid in arthritis, allergies, and other inflammatory diseases.  Fish oil also helps to keep the skin and haircoat healthy.  Ask you veterinarian about the proper dosages and products for your pet.

To carry on with the subject of nutrition, feed your senior pet a high quality dog food recommended and approved by your veterinarian. The Whole Dog Journal has a fabulous article on low fat diets for your pet, including seniors (Special Needs Diets).  Make sure the diet you feed while lower in fat is not also lower in protein. Keeping your pet from becoming overweight will also help fight off diseases such as cancer and diabetes, aid in reducing the pain of arthritis and keep your pet's heart, kidneys and liver healthier longer.

Other options for pain relief and to keep your pet healthy include low impact exercise such as walks and swimming, as well as physical therapy.  Sandra Hudson of the Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning Center specializes in senior pets and pets recovering from post op surgery.  Take a look at her Facebook site here: Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning to learn more about the benefits of physical therapy for your pet.  

Finally, from memory foam beds to elevated dog feeders, the number of products to keep your senior comfortable continues to grow.  Check out a list of products from Drs. Foster & Smith that can help you and your senior pet get around easier.

While Labrador puppies can be the cutest things on Earth, there is something to be said about the wisdom and dignity of the senior pet in your life.  For me, nothing is more majestic than the graying muzzle of a healthy well-cared for senior pet.

At Heart of Texas Lab Rescue, we specialize in Labs of all ages and sizes.  Some of our best dogs are well beyond the chaos and energy of younger pups.  Most are housebroken and have had enough training to behave well in the home and around other people and animals.  If one of these pups sounds like your perfect companion, check out our website to learn more about the dogs such as Shaggy (pictured above) we have available for adoption: HOTLR Labs Needing Homes.

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