It always seems like the best things in life are short-lived. And so it goes for our best friends too. We owe it to them to be more understanding when curling up on the couch is preferred over playing ball.

Most age-related illnesses are all too familiar as they have also touched our human lives.

Similar to Alzheimer’s, Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, “Dementia”, may show itself as withdrawal, failure to recognize family, names, or familiar places, standing in corners, staring at walls, increased daytime sleeping, and soiling indoors. Medications may help but there is no cure. 28% of dogs over 11 and 66% over 15 demonstrate dementia behaviors. No specific breeds are more susceptible but age-related illnesses may be more prevalent in smaller breeds that tend to live longer.

Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness in dogs. Surgery is the only effective treatment if performed early. Complications like retinal detachment and glaucoma can be painful and irreversible. However, dogs with partial or total blindness usually function almost as well as sighted dogs. It’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a veterinary ophthalmologist, that specialize in treating dogs with eye disease. There may be discomfort associated with vision loss that can be treated with medication.

Arthritis is a painful condition that affects one in five dogs over the age of seven causing pain and stiffness in the joints, neck, hips, shoulders, elbows and back. Some things you can do at home to bring relief are: A HEALTHY DIET that keeps your dog at an appropriate weight reduces pressure on their knees and hips.

SUPPLIMENTS like Glucosamine Chondroitin are known to lubricate the joints and ease mobility. In combination with Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) it has been shown to relieve arthritic pain, slow joint deterioration and reduce inflammation without negative side effects. As always, I recommend talking to your veterinarian before beginning any diet change or supplement.

EXERCISING is also important. Take your dog for several 10-to-15-minute walks rather than one long walk. PROVIDE EXTRA WARMTH AND COMFORT with a soft bed and extra blanket.

Gel filled and heated beds are made specifically for arthritic dogs. Moist Heat can also provide welcomed relief. Heating pads must be supervised.

RAISING DISHES are easy enough and a good idea for all large breeds at any age. A GOOD MESSAGE is always a treat for the body and mind. USE A RAMP for stairs and access to the back of your SUV.

Oral Disease is caused by plaque. Oral hygiene care means regular brushing, annual examinations and cleanings by your veterinarian. Loss of appetite, swelling or bleeding of the gums, and fowl breath means it’s time to see your vet. Routine at-home oral care will help to keep your dog healthy. Ask your veterinarian how to brush your dogs teeth!

Old age is something we all face sooner or later. Unfortunately for dogs, sooner is inevitable. Make their senior years as special as possible with love, patience, understanding and some advice from your vet.

A special poem…author unknown

Treat me kindly, my beloved friend, For no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.
Do not break my spirit with a stick, For though I should lick your hand
between blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly
teach me the things you would have me learn.
Speak to me often, For your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footsteps fall upon my ears.
Please take me inside when it is cold and wet, For I am a domesticated animal, no longer accustomed to the bitter elements. I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your
feet beside the hearth.
Keep my pan filled with water, for I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst.
Feed me clean food that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.
And, my friend, when I am very old, and I no longer enjoy good health, hearing and good sight, do not make heroic
efforts to keep me going.
I am not having fun. Please see that my trusting life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath I drew, that my fate was always safest in your hands.

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