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What to know to care for senior dogs

Posted at 6:57 AM, Sep 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 07:57:14-04

Vision and hearing loss, lumps and bumps. We share many signs of aging with our pets. And when our dogs get old, it is our job to care for them like they always cared for us.

The average life span of man’s best friend is 10 to 13 years, but you might notice your furry friend slowing down at an even younger age.

“It can be normal to slow down a little, but they shouldn't be slow to get up from a laying-down position; that's a symptom of arthritis," said Caitrine Hellenga, medical director of Winter Park Veterinary.

Limping, weight gain and refusing to jump are other signs of arthritis. Medications can help, but as a dog ages, it is critical to keep them at a healthy weight.

“The more weight you get off and get them into a nice lean condition, the less weight they carry on their joints and the more they can bounce around and be happy,” she said.

Senior dogs need regular vet appointments, high-quality diets, light exercise and accommodations such as ramps, rugs for slippery floors and special bedding.

“Making sure that they have a nice, thick orthopedic kind of bed. If they don’t like laying on padded beds because they like the cool floor, you can get some of the kuranda beds; that's a raised bed with a canvas hammock-type style," Hellenga said.

“The more weight you get off and get them into a nice lean condition, the less weight they carry on their joints and the more they can bounce around and be happy.” — Caitrine Hellenga, medical director of Winter Park Veterinary

Small breeds live significantly longer than large breeds, according to the American Kennel Club. A chihuahua lives 15 to 17 years, while a Great Dane lives only 8 to 10.

Scientists are not certain what causes this, but it may be because larger breeds grow from puppies to adults at an accelerated rate, increasing abnormal cell growth.