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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.


A: Ramps and steps are a big help to get up on the couch or on the bed. Carpet runners are good if you have hardwood floors, stairs, or tile, so they don’t slip.

Have real soft bedding. A lot of people use heated orthopedic beds.

Use drinking fountains. Every creature in nature loves the sound of running water. A lot of older pets get chronically dehydrated. Fountains keep water aerated and cooler.

And heat their food up. Their sense of smell and sense of taste don’t work as well as they used to. If you’re still using dry food, you can put a little water on it or mix a little canned on it and put it in the microwave for seven to 10 seconds to release that aroma.

I also recommend a pet buddy. Dogs in multiple-pet households are sick less often, live longer, and generally are happier. Social interaction is so important. Exercise also is important. Not only do the excess pounds melt away, so do a lot of the behavior problems.


Q: Do elderly pets still require yearly vaccinations?

A: That’s a hot topic. At one time we did a one size fits all -- everybody gets the exact same thing. But we over vaccinated because we gave everybody the same thing regardless of their life stage, lifestyle, or risk in the community. If your dog is boarded or goes to dog parks, you’d better vaccinate him. But we’ve shifted from one size fits all to individualized personal pet health protocols, in which we look at medical history, current health status, life stage, lifestyle, and any emerging risks in the community to determine what, if any, vaccines are needed.


Q: Are there any new drugs or therapies that can help an old dog get back some of his spark?

A: Some of the arthritis drugs are incredible. They can take a pet that’s really suffering -- that’s not playing, is depressed, inactive, getting overweight -- and you put him on these drugs and it’s like you loaded new batteries in him.

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