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Healthy Dogs

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Old Dog Health Q&A: Health and Dietary Concerns in Aging Dogs

WebMD veterinary expert answers common questions pet owners have about their aging dogs.



Q: Do dogs get Alzheimer’s disease?

A: Some people call it that. Its called cognitive disorder syndrome, canine brain aging. Sleeping patterns change; they’ll sleep more during the day and be awake at night. They’ll stand by the wrong side of the door to be let out. They’ll wander into a room they typically don’t go into and act like they don’t know why they’re in there. Again, their senses are dulled. It’s like they’ve gone from a world of 3-D back to a one-dimensional world. But I’m so excited about some of the new drugs for the cognitive disorder syndrome. They’re amazing. With some dogs, it’s like throwing a light switch and they’re back to 3-D in Technicolor.


Q: What are the most common medical problems with older dogs?

A: Fifty percent of dogs over the age of 10 are going to die of cancer. That’s from the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). Other common problems are renal and kidney disease, heart failure, diabetes. Look for increased or decreased thirst. Changes in their bathroom habits. A lot of time you’ll see pain of movement, or lack of movement.


Q: Do I need to change my dog’s diet as she ages?

A: We used to think that we wanted to reduce the protein for older dogs, and now we’re finding out some of them need a higher-quality protein or more protein as they age. I tell my clients we’re probably going to change what’s in your dog’s bowl five times in his lifetime, and certainly one of those changes is when they’re seniors. We certainly need to put them on something that’s reduced calories, reduced fat, so they don’t get obese. Sometimes we put them on a diet for a specific disorder; if their kidneys are starting to slip, we put them on a specific diet.


Q: What are some things I can do to make it easier for my dog as he gets older?

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