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Caring for Ageing Dogs

Dr. Rakesh. M. Shinde

The diseases of our domestic animals, which admit of cure, yield as promptly to homoeopathic medicines as those of men. The benefits of homoeopathy over other systems of medicine for our pets are many. It cures diseases and not palliate them with the humane nature of its cure.

Like humans, ageing pets require special care just like with us, the clock continues to tick for animals - only their clock runs a little faster. Compared to humans, the life span of a cat or dog is relatively short and depends upon the size and breed of the animal. A St. Bernard, for example, is considered a "senior" at the age of 5 to 7 while a terrier would be considered middle aged. Age 7 to 10 is considered middle- aged for cats while over 10 is a senior. You'll find that routine preventive medicine for your pet during their senior years is better for them and less expensive for you. The real reward, however, is the potential freedom from some old-age ailments that could rob you and your pet of years of companionship and enjoyment. The heat of summer is hard on our furry friends, especially on seniors, so now is an ideal time to bring your older pet in for a geriatric examination.

Effects of Ageing
All living creatures' bodies change as they age. Most changes result from deteriorating body functions such as loss of kidney functionand impaired vision. As the pet ages, the incidences ( and possibly the intensity) of these ailments increase. Some older cats and dogs may be suffering from varying degrees of several different problems!

The Diet Now!
Change his food to a higher-fiber, fat- and calorie- reduced "senior" formulation (high-protein foods may help your dog maintain his lean body mass).

Another way to keep your dog fit is to avoid letting his daily exercise slide, no matter how content he seems to be watching the world from the front window. Slow down your pace and shorten your walks, if need be, but don't forgo activity altogether.

To help your dog get his stiff, arthritic joints moving each morning, or to help ease the nagging pain of hip or elbow dysplasia, spend a few minutes gently massaging his joints.

A little compromise is to be expected. If you notice that your dog is having trouble hopping up onto his favorite couch, either teach him to stay down, place a stool nearby to help him hoist himself up or provide a soft pillow for him to lie on. Loading your older dog into the car can also become a problem. If he can't jump into the back of a high minivan, or even hop into the back seat of a car, use a strong plank of wood with a nonslip surface as a ramp to help him walk with dignity into his favorite cruising seat. Elevating his food dish to chest-height is an especially good idea with an older dog, since bending only contributes to more pain and neck-strain problems. Do all that you can to ensure that his comfortable daily routine doesn't change too much. Dogs don't like to veer too far off their familiar course.

That distinguished gray beard, those white tufts between his toes and his salt-and-pepper coat are other signs that your dog is getting along in years. However, don't let the gray fool you into thinking that he doesn't need as much grooming as he used to. Brush and clean him as always, using a more delicate touch if necessary. In addition, don't chalk up consistently bad breath to the normal ageing woes. It may be a sign of illnesses such as liver disease, chronic indigestion or stomach ulcers. Chronic halitosis can also be caused by periodontal disease, which can, itself, lead to other health problems, including heart, lung and kidney disease. Keep up with your dog'sdental and gum-care routine and report consistent or recurring breath problems to your vet. As always, check your dog's ears, eyes, nose, coat and full body, keeping alert for any changes that may signal illness.

Common Health Problems in Older Pets

  • Kidney disease
  • Arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Impaired senses
  • Liver disease
  • Behavioral changes
  • Tooth & gum disease
  • Obesity
First Aid
Your older dog or cat is more prone to falls and injuries. Keeping a home kit ready at home for first aid can save your pet from prolonged suffering.

Bleeding (cut, scratch, animal bite): Apply pressure to wound until bleeding stops, then bandage. If bleeding does not stop, apply tourniquet to a bleeding limb or tail and get to vet immediately. If a foreign object is lodged in body, do not remove it; wrap a bandage around it and seek immediate vet care. If dog is bitten by animal of unknown rabies status, seek emergency vet care. The most important is to keep a homoeopathic first aid ready with you.

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