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Ask A Vet : 5 Ways To Keep Senior Dogs Healthy

If you love a senior dog, you want to make your friend’s life as good as it can get for as long as possible. I treat loads of senior patients and we pride ourselves on the longevity and continuing the good health of a large majority of our patients. Concerned, loving pet parents ask me how healthcare can help their senior dogs, so I have distilled my advice down to the top 5. And here they are (drum roll, please):

#1 – Preventive Veterinary Care and Regular check-ups.

The value of preventive care cannot be overemphasized. A veterinarian needs to see your dog when things are normal to establish a baseline as she grows older and becomes more likely to have health problem. The vet will examine parts of your dog you would not think to check. Clients tell me all the time that they “never noticed that.”Seeing the vet is not just for vaccines anymore. Older dogs are more prone to tumors that must be checked out and a multitude of disorders that must be managed. A thorough physical exam and diagnostic testing is ammunition in the battle against poor health!

#2 – Nutrition

I don’t shop for pet food by reading labels anymore and I don’t recommend it to my clients. I read research papers. I pick brands that have actual live people willing to talk to me about their products. I find veterinarians (like veterinary nutritionists) who have more knowledge on the subject than I do and I talk to them and attend their classes. You still get what you pay for (as in everything) but take the time to ask a professional so that you are aware what you are getting and what you are paying for. Truly high quality diets will never be cheap, but a high price tag alone does not insure quality. Don’t just pick the brand whose name you recognize because of ad campaigns.

#3 – Exercise

Exercise is critical to keep things moving well and pumping well. Although physical exercise is a part of the healthy formula, it is not the only part. Your dog’s mind must be kept active. Find activities that are new and different. Devise games that make her think. Puzzle toys are great at stimulating the mind and rewarding thought and exercise. Your dog’s body follows the “use it or lose it” theory just like yours. Use her muscles and use her mind to help her stay sharp and fit. Physical and mental activity are critical to lasting health.

#4 – Avoid Obesity

Being overweight takes a toll on your pet’s joints and longevity. Think of your pet’s weight as balancing act between input and output. When he takes in more, he has to burn off more. Do you know how much he really needs? The easiest way is ask your veterinarian to enter your pet’s details into a computer program designed to calculate for you what her calorie guidelines would be. This is the easiest way for me also. I use my Calorie Guide program for my own pets regularly. However, should your vet not have a program like this one, together you can figure out a range that can at least guide you, so certainly ask. Studies show that being normal body weight can add almost 2 years to your dog’s life.

#5 – Promote Dental health

Now we are starting to realize the importance of good dental health to the senior pet. Not only is dental disease very painful, but chronic infection and immune stimulation are bad for your dog’s health. As dogs age, they often need an even more meticulous dental hygiene program, including at–home tooth care and regular professional dental cleanings. These should always be performed under general anesthesia overseen by a licensed veterinarian. Anesthesia should always be preceded by blood screenings and such tests (done as pre-dental screens) have revealed many disease processes in the earliest stage while I can still impact the progression, so you can achieve two objectives with a dental prophylaxis.


These 5 things are important to keeping your senior pet healthy and happy for as long as you can. Your dog is a wonderful friend. Doesn’t he deserve to have his best possible golden years?

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Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm
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