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  • Physical Changes as Our Dog Ages

    I hope we know some of the mental and behavior changes connected with aging as stated last article. In this article we are going to mention some of the physical changes that actually occur in our pet's body that may or may not have behavior change connected.

    Written and Provided exclusively to Workingdogs.com by Floyd R. Garrett, D.V.M. Copying is not allowed.

    The organs involved usually are the heart, kidneys, thyroid, eyes, skin, and/or prostrate (males). Heart aging usually leads to Congestive Heart Failure. This usually causes coughing that gets worse at night. The pet will wake up in the middle of the night coughing and having trouble breathing. The heart and lungs get some back-up fluids from the lack of efficiency creating coughing and difficult breathing. Usually a simply drug such as a diuretic like Lasix helps the old patient tremendously.

    As age creeps up on our pet, the thyroid gland may "go to sleep." If the thyroid becomes underactive, the skin becomes flaky and the hair starts falling out. The pet is sluggish, sleeps more than normal, and has a low metabolic rate. This condition can be simply corrected by a thyroid pill each day.

    As the pet gets older the kidneys start to age and get worn out. When this happens the pet will often drink a lot of water. This also leads to increased urination. As the pet gets older, a high quality diet is needed with a medium percentage of protein.. easily digestible protein. . approximately 16% to 20%. The best protein for this is chicken or lamb protein.

    Next, is eyes and eyes drying out. With age, the moisture or tears that lubricate the corneas seem to become less in quantity. Also poor drainage occurs so the eyes become more weepy looking as the tears run over the eyelids.

    Let's look at teeth. The teeth must be watched by your Veterinarian and cleaned often so that tartar does not accumulate. If the teeth become covered with tartar, the gum shrinks away from the tooth, bacteria get under the tooth and an
    abscess develops. When this happens, the
    infection can get all through the blood and even reside in the heart or heart valves which could do serious harm to an older pet.

    As an intact male dog ages, the prostate gland can enlarge and give trouble just as in human males that are older. Urination become frequent, painful, and the pet is unable to empty all urine out
    of the bladder at one time. Vomiting can occur and weakness in the hind or rear legs. This condition can be treated with hormones, antibiotics and/or surgery.

    Lastly, I should mention skin problems as the pet ages. With age comes an immune system that doesn't work as well as it did when younger. Much more loss of hair, dry patchy skin, more molds and warts, and more allergies, rashes, and skin cancer. The best solution to this is to keep the skin in maximum shape. Feed a high quality diet (as mentioned earlier) with natural preservatives and chicken, lamb, or turkey with a digestibility factor of 80% to 90%. The side benefit of this is the more digestibility, the less stool or waste material. Some of these foods are well marked and have a yellow star on the bag that says "Specially Formulated for Skin and Hair Coat." Also, for skin health, frequent bathing, combing, and brushing is needed.

    One of the most important things to do, even if some of the skin problems are due to allergies, is to keep the aggravators off (fleas, ticks, flies, etc.). The best and newest way for this is to put one of the new monthly topicals on the neck or back. The cost of one vial applied to the back is about $4 to $5 a month. Here in the Coastal Bend, it is worth every penny.

    Written and Provided exclusively to Workingdogs.com by Floyd R. Garrett, D.V.M. Copying is not allowed.