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I love old dogs. The gray muzzle, the soft eyes, the loving bond that ties them so strongly to us after a rowdy puppyhood and the active years of maturity. The golden years are a time to cherish, but they also bring new challenges. Our senior sweethearts can face a number of common health problems related to their advancing age.
Among the problems veterinarians and pet owners must work together to combat are arthritis, cancer, cognitive dysfunction, dental disease, failing vision, hearing loss, heart disease, hypothyroidism and kidney disease. While we can’t necessarily avoid any or all of them, we can work to manage them to help keep our dogs comfortable and happy. Here is a look at what you may encounter as your dog ages and the most up-to-date treatments to help keep him spry.
This painful, degenerative joint disease affects most dogs at some point in their senior years. Large and giant breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherd Dogs, Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards, tend to be more at risk, but dogs of any size can develop achy joints. Suspect arthritis if your dog seems reluctant to go up or down stairs, is no longer willing to jump on or off furniture or climb in or out of the car, or if he seems stiff after standing up.
If you notice any of these signs in your dog, ask your veterinarian about medication that can help. The arsenal against arthritis pain includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). While NSAIDs can really put the pep back in your dog’s step, it’s important to know that they can have side effects. Your veterinarian will need to run blood tests every few months to make sure your dog's liver and kidneys aren’t suffering any adverse effects. Read the package insert and ask your veterinarian about potential side effects so you can be on the lookout for signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss and lethargy. Also, never give your pet NSAIDs intended for humans, they can seriously harm your cat or dog.
Dogs with arthritis may also benefit from other types of drug therapy; talk to your veterinarian about your options. Weight loss (if your dog is chubby), acupuncture and massage may also help provide pain relief for some pets.
It might seem as if more dogs are getting cancer, but part of that is because our dogs are living longer. We tend to see an increase in the incidence of cancer the older dogs get. The most common cancers in dogs are lymphoma, osteosarcoma, soft tissue cancers, oral melanoma and mammary cancer.
Take your dog to the veterinarian stat if you notice any of the following warning signs of cancer: loss of appetite or weight loss, lumps or bumps that increase in size or sores that don’t heal, bleeding or other discharge from the mouth, nose, or anus or unusual body odor. A dog with cancer may also exhibit a noticeable lack of energy, have difficulty eating or swallowing, unexplained lameness that doesn’t improve or difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating.
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