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Pet Education

Top 10 Secrets to Aging Gracefully

The key to helping pet's live longer and healthier lives is early recognition of problems that come naturally with aging.  Follow these guidelines to help your pet make the most of their Golden Years.    

1 – Become informed about the common aging changes and medical conditions affecting older pets and the options for therapy.  Notify your vet immediately if your senior pet starts exhibiting any new or concerning symptoms of illness or degeneration.     

2 – Find an excellent veterinarian.  It is advisable for older pets to visit their veterinarian every six months.  This helps your vet detect problems early and devise the best treatment plan for your pet.  Consider incorporating holistic or alternative medicine techniques into your older pet's routine.  Many pets with arthritis or chronic digestive disturbances will benefit from acupuncture.  Visit www.ahvma.org to find a holistic veterinarian near you.

3 – Provide your older pet the healthiest and most nutritious food you can.  Select a natural pet food that does not contain synthetic chemicals or rendered meats.  These ingredients should be avoided as they may be more difficult for your older pet to digest or contribute to adverse food reactions.  If you are considering making your pets food, work with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to insure you are creating a complete and balanced diet.  Be aware that as dog's age, a lower fat and higher fiber diet is often the best choice to maintain excellent digestive health.  In order to avoid problems with constipation, make sure both dogs and cats have access to fresh, clean water. 

4 – Don't overfeed your pet.  As many pets (especially dogs) age, their metabolism and activity levels decline which decreases their need for calories.  In general, older pet requires 30-40% less calories than their younger counterparts.  Overfeeding can lead to weight gain, obesity, and problems with arthritis.  Click here to read more about weight loss tips.

5 – Provide your pet adequate exercise.  With aging often comes decreased mobility and problems with arthritis.  It is important to continue exercise in order to avoid obesity and keep your pets muscles strong in order to support their aging and arthritic joints.  Click here to read more about new ways to engage your pet in activity as well as natural therapies that may help you alleviate the pain associated with arthritis.

6 – Consider the usage of supplements for your older pet.  Vitamins, fatty acids, digestive enzymes and other pet supplements are often used to counter degenerative organ changes that occur during the aging process.  Click here to read more about the supplements available for older pets. 

7 – Continue attending to basic health maintenance such as flea and tick control, dental health, and vaccination to insure your pet is well protected against preventable diseases.  To avoid unnecessary risks, ask your veterinarian for advice on newer vaccination protocols and anesthetic dental procedures for older pets.  If you are concerned about anesthesia in your pet, you are not alone.  Click here to read more about safe anesthesia in geriatric pets.

8 – Recognize that older pets often experience hearing loss and failing eyesight.  Mostly these are degenerative changes that have no cure; however, your veterinarian should evaluate your pet for treatable conditions.  Make adjustments around your home to avoid dangerous situations for your pet.  For example, eliminate unsafe objects such as tables with sharp corners or holes in the yard that your pet may not see.  Announce yourself with your voice and footsteps when approaching your dog to avoid startling him or her.  Training your dog to a vibrating collar (not an electric shock collar) can be helpful when hearing is significantly impaired. 

9 – Avoid stressful situations for your older pet.  As pets age they often become less tolerant and even irritable in certain conditions.  Recognize what constitutes stress for your pet (crowds, noise, children, etc) and avoid exposure to keep them happy and comfortable.  

10 – Providing your pet a constant source of unconditional love, patience and respect will help them thrive regardless of their age!   

Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM,is a renowned, board-certified Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist who has practiced at the Animal Medical Center in New York City and other leading institutions. She is an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Donna has written and lectured extensively on topics including nutrition, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, kidney failure and respiratory disease. She is widely recognized for her role as consulting veterinarian to HALO, Purely for Pets, her TV appearances with Ellen DeGeneres and her widely-quoted pet health advice in print and on radio. Dr. Donna performs medical, nutrition and weight loss consultations for dogs and cats through her web-based veterinary consulting service, www.SpectorDVM.com.

 
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