Establish a relationship with the best veterinarian you can find. For most older dogs, it is advisable to make an appointment with the vet every six months. Your vet should be someone whom you trust and with whom you feel very comfortable.
Become informed about the conditions common to older dogs and the therapies used for them. Be alert to symptoms, bring them to your vet's attention promptly, and be prepared to discuss treatment options.
Feed your older dog the best food you can afford. Consider feeding a home-prepared diet (with nutritional input from your vet) and two small meals daily rather than one large one.
Don't overfeed! Obesity will create health problems and shorten lifespans.
Consider the use of dietary supplements such as glucosamine/chondroitin for arthritis.
Give your senior dog adequate exercise, but adjust it to the dog's changing abilities.
Attend to dental health. Brush your dog's teeth daily and have them cleaned professionally whenever your vet advises it.
Consider having your dog vaccinated once every three years, rather than yearly. Discuss vaccine protocols and follow the advice that makes sense for your particular situation.
Be diligent in controlling fleas and ticks, and keep your dog and his environment scrupulously clean.
Make your senior dog as much a part of your life as possible, and do all you can to keep him interested, active, happy and comfortable.
(Adapted from The Senior Dogs Project)
ANTIC, March, 2005
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